The Next Budget Crisis Is Only 90 Days Away

US Rep. Paul Ryan,R-WI, walks to a meeting at the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 16, 2013. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that a deal had been reached with Republican leaders to end a fiscal impasse that has threatened the United States with default. Reid, speaking from the Senate floor, said the agreement called for reopening the federal government with a temporary budget until January 15 and to extend US borrowing authority until February 7. 
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Oct. 16, 2013, 7:55 p.m.

Be­fore the ink was even dry on the plan to end the gov­ern­ment shut­down and avoid bust­ing the na­tion’s debt lim­it, there were grow­ing doubts that Con­gress could avoid an­oth­er fisc­al show­down in only 90 days.

The pack­age to re­open the gov­ern­ment runs only through mid-Janu­ary, and law­makers have pinned hopes to avert a re­peat per­form­ance on a new bi­par­tis­an, bicam­er­al con­fer­ence com­mit­tee. The last sim­il­ar pan­el, the so-called su­per com­mit­tee of 2011, dead­locked and ad­journed in dis­agree­ment.

The new pan­el, to be led by House Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an, R-Wis., and Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash., will be­gin its talks amid a pois­on­ous and par­tis­an at­mo­sphere after the first gov­ern­ment shut­down in 17 years.

If the policy gulf between the two parties was not chal­len­ging enough, law­makers on both sides of the aisle are ques­tion­ing wheth­er any­one — even Ry­an, the most re­spec­ted voice on fisc­al mat­ters among House Re­pub­lic­ans — can truly rep­res­ent a frac­tious con­fer­ence that pushed a gov­ern­ment shut­down against its lead­er­ship’s wishes and then re­jec­ted its own speak­er’s pro­pos­al to re­open the gov­ern­ment.

“We’re un­gov­ern­able,” Rep. Charles Bous­tany, R-La., a seni­or mem­ber of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, said Wed­nes­day. “There is no doubt in my mind that the last three weeks have made any­thing achiev­able in the House more dif­fi­cult.”

For the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to suc­ceed, both parties must trust that the oth­er is ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith and can sell a com­prom­ise-laced pack­age to their re­spect­ive caucuses. It’s not clear any­one cur­rently has that abil­ity when it comes to the rest­ive House Re­pub­lic­ans.

“That’s a le­git­im­ate con­cern based upon re­cent his­tory,” said Sen. Robert Ca­sey, a mod­er­ate Pennsylvania Demo­crat. “Not much we can do about that oth­er than have them dis­prove it.”

Bous­tany agreed that the chal­lenge will be es­pe­cially acute for House GOP con­fer­ees. “Any time a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee con­venes to try to solve some of these prob­lems — wheth­er it’s a farm bill, or a de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion pack­age, or any­thing — if you can’t rely on the fact that the rank-and-file mem­bers have your back and will go along with it then that makes it im­possible to gov­ern,” he said. “And that’s largely where we are today, and it’s not a good place to be.”

In pub­lic on Wed­nes­day, top law­makers tried to sound a pos­it­ive note, even as lead­er­ship aides in both parties, and on both ends of the Cap­it­ol, were skep­tic­al.

“You have two very good ne­go­ti­at­ors who are far apart in their views, but both wish to de­fang the worst parts of se­quest­ra­tion,” Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y., said. “Hope springs etern­al.”

Two main as­sump­tions un­der­pin those Demo­crat­ic hopes. The first is that Re­pub­lic­ans, wounded polit­ic­ally in the cur­rent shut­down bout, will not want to re­hash an­oth­er gov­ern­ment-shut­down battle in only 90 days. The second is that GOP hawks will come to the table to dis­cuss un­wind­ing the auto­mat­ic cuts in place due to se­quest­ra­tion be­cause the de­fense sec­tor will take a big­ger share of cut­backs in 2014 than it did in 2013.

Both as­sump­tions could prove false. Demo­crats have con­sist­ently over­es­tim­ated the cur­rent, tea-party-in­fused Re­pub­lic­an Party’s will­ing­ness to ne­go­ti­ate away se­quest­ra­tion be­cause of de­fense spend­ing. And plenty of House Re­pub­lic­ans, even amid plum­met­ing poll num­bers, did not sound ready to give up the fight.

“The battle is over,” Rep. Aus­tin Scott, a Geor­gia Re­pub­lic­an elec­ted in the 2010 wave, said on Wed­nes­day, “but the war has just be­gun.”

Law­makers are already busy de­fin­ing down suc­cess for the budget con­fer­ence com­mit­tee. Al­most no one is dis­cuss­ing the kind of “grand bar­gain” — a mix­ture of rev­en­ues sought by Demo­crats and en­ti­tle­ment cut­backs sought by Re­pub­lic­ans — that has proved elu­sive between Pres­id­ent Obama and con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans for al­most three years.

House Speak­er John Boehner said Wed­nes­day that “rais­ing taxes is not a vi­able op­tion,” while Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi ruled out any changes to Medi­care and So­cial Se­cur­ity without fresh rev­en­ues. “Why should granny pay the price when we won’t even touch one hair on the head of the wealthy in the coun­try?” she said on MSB­NC.

In­stead, dis­cus­sions for the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee are around simply keep­ing the gov­ern­ment open through Septem­ber 2014, the rest of the cur­rent fisc­al year. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., called that a “reas­on­able ex­pect­a­tion.”

“I would ac­know­ledge that the in­siders here prob­ably have low ex­pect­a­tions,” he said, “so let’s ex­ceed it.”

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×