Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Bipartisan Budget Deal. How Did That Happen?

We all know by now that Congress is gridlocked and dysfunctional. But those who say that Republicans have become too extreme to negotiate with are taking a huge risk. We all saw how Republicans were unable, on their own, to come up with a plan to avoid a government shutdown and/or default on our debt. And we also know how devastating it would be to sit by and let one (or both!) of those things happen. So talk, we must. As a result, we now have a bipartisan budget and debt ceiling deal. Here are the big steps along the way that got us there:

Movement towards a common sense caucus

Back in early 2013 the development of a common sense caucus was something President Obama began to work towards. Most of the media got sidetracked on what this was all about and reported it more as a social endeavor by the President to assuage rumors of his aloofness. But here's how he described it:
I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes than let these cuts go through. I know that there are Democrats who’d rather do smart entitlement reform than let these cuts go through. So there is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill. It’s just -- it’s a silent group right now, and we want to make sure that their voices start getting heard.

In the coming days and in the coming weeks I’m going to keep on reaching out to them, both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House, and say to them, let’s fix this -- not just for a month or two, but for years to come.
More recently, this is what Martin Longman was referring to when he wrote about the "responsible caucus."
I’ve pointed out, over and over again, that the coalition of representatives in the House that votes to pay our bills and fund our government is the real majority in the House. And that majority has been made up mostly of Democrats since John Boehner became Speaker in 2011. We’ve been able to limp along with this odd situation where Democrats are responsible for voting for Republican appropriations bills because the “responsible caucus” in Washington has been able to keep the government going and willing to act in bizarre ways in order to keep it going.
It will be interesting to watch - as the Freedom Caucus becomes for demanding and disruptive - if that opens up more opportunities for the common sense caucus. We're already seeing that happen with the Ex-Im Bank.

McConnell promises no shutdowns 

When Republicans took control of the Senate in 2014, right out of the box Majority Leader McConnell promised that there would be no government shutdowns on his watch and no defaults on our debt. Just after John Boehner announced he would leave Congress, he added his voice to that promise.

These two veterans are keeping their eye on the general election campaign that will commence next fall. They know that if either of these things were to happen, Republicans would be blamed and it would deal a devastating blow to their presidential prospects (and could lose them their majority in the Senate).

Negotiations commence

Last month Republican and Democratic Congressional leaders began meeting with the White House to negotiate a deal. It is interesting that, even with news reports like this, those who oppose the deal are calling these meetings "secretive."
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a longtime Boehner ally, said it was no surprise that the budget talks would upset the House’s right flank.

“There’ll be some people that will be unhappy with it. But the reality is, we have to get a budget deal somehow,” he said, adding that “we’ve all known for six months, eight months” that negotiations would have to happen.

Simpson said that he believes Boehner wants to get a broader budget deal before he departs at the end of October, to give lawmakers a chance to work out the details before December.

“It’s one of the things he’s going to try to clear off the table for the next Speaker.”

GOP leaders are seeking to strike a deal that would set top-line budget numbers for the next two years. Congress also faces pressure to raise the debt ceiling, and Boehner on Tuesday didn’t rule out taking care of that issue before the end of next month.
Obama vetos NDAA

Just last week President Obama sent a signal that he was serious about his negotiating position by vetoing the National Defense Authorization Act. Knowing that the one thing Republican hawks wanted in any budget deal was a lifting of the sequester caps on Defense spending, that veto maintained the Democrat's leverage in these negotiations. The result is that - just as sequestration cut equally from both defense and domestic spending - this budget increases them both.

It would be nice to see more of this kind of governing going forward. Whether or not that happens will primarily be up to Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan.


  1. Can I just say Nancy that you are consistently more spot-on with what is going on than any other political prognosticator I follow. It consistently amazes me that you aren't more widely followed than you are.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Goddamn yes to this. This blog is my morning cup of coffee, plus a few midday breaks and evening reading.

  2. I told you six months ago that the GOP would never shut down the govt so close to their primary. It took the demise of a Speaker, the humiliation of a majority leader, a couple of dismal war efforts demanding big budget OCO expenditures for years to come and deeply crooked and complicit press to not draw attention to any of this, but the govt will not shut down. Instead, they'll raise annual spending by a whole 1% a year! America's back on track, baby.

    It's so funny that the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was supposed to ensnare the opposition and lead to substantial tax hikes and loophole closures (Dem plan) or entitlement cuts (Rep) has produced neither. Between Murray-Ryan in 2013 and now, they've just decided to all save face by eating away at sequestration and just raise spending back towards pre-2011 levels with future "savings" that won't ever actually arrive. All because Republicans can't pass routine appropriation bills with 245 members in the House without Dem help.

    The tell even way back was how much Senate Republicans hate Ted Cruz. Don't doubt that the percentage of psychos is the same as in the House, but McConnell has a much, much stronger command of his flock than Boehner. If McConnell wasn't dead set on depriving Obama of all oxygen until the eleventh hour every single time, those two plus Pelosi could actually negotiate pretty much everything. Cruz will be delighted though, this just "proves" his ongoing accusations of collusion by the GOP establishment with the forces of evil against honest, god-fearing fiscal conservatives. I'm sure he'll be in fine form at the next debate.