Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

December 14, 2013

The little budget deal is a big deal

As night fell on Dec. 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the two-year budget deal carved out by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan — but the fallout is not nearly over. It is rapidly changing the atmosphere in Washington about budgeting. And it is a gift, of sorts, to the Pentagon, as they have quickly realized.

Sure, there are waves of disappointment from the congressional Tea Party advocates of shutting down the government and their moneyed supporters in the Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, and others. And yes, there are still warnings that the budget negotiators had better not lose sight of the pressing need for long-term deficit reduction and debt control.

But, miracle of miracles, this agreement has passed the divided House and will get through the Senate, giving the appropriators a set of numbers to write actual appropriations for this fiscal year. Even more miraculous, it provides numbers for next year, too.

I’m not sure why so many folks are calling this an “interim” or “short-term” deal.

The advocates for the “long term” are disappointed because the Budget Control Act caps are not only retained in this agreement but extended for another two years, into 2023, and the Murray-Ryan agreement does not replace them with a long-term budget deal.

The “long-termers” are living in a dream world. Haven’t they been watching for the last three years? For a Congress that has been alternately limping and fighting from quarter to quarter, bickering about debt ceilings, shutdowns, and sequesters, two years is a very, very long-term deal.

In fact, this “little” deal is turning out to be a very big deal. Not because the details are so important; they are the classic representation of green eyeshade budget negotiating, not the Ten Commandments. But because it’s upended the atmosphere for budget discussions and changed budgetary politics for several years to come — precisely because it reflects the way Congress actually does business, as opposed to how some people want it to behave.

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