Booman Tribune’s dead-to-rights in regards to President Obama’s nomination of Montana Sen. Max Baucus(D-MT) to become the next Ambassador to China; my own take is that he’s right on this one.
Say whatever you want about President Obama, but this again should remind us that the president isn’t just thinking about his own good fortunes but that he’s also thinking about the Democratic Party’s fortunes going into 2014.
Well, what do you know….Congress actually managed to pass a budget!
A bipartisan budget bill aimed at averting another government shutdown next year passed the Senate by a healthy 64-36 vote and now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
The measure, which sets spending levels at just over $1 trillion through 2015, ends a years-long budget stalemate in Congress, where lawmakers have become accustomed to short-term continuing resolutions and fiscal brinksmanship.(Real Clear Politics)
While there are still fiscal shoals ahead (such as the coming debt ceiling increase fight to come) this is definitely good news as 2013 comes to a close.
As much as I can’t stand the House leadership most days, once in a while they actually do manage to stand on the side of the angels…
The House of Representatives approved a modest budget agreement that would essentially forestall the threat of a government shutdown through late 2015 in a Thursday evening vote.
The budget framework, which enjoys the support of President Barack Obama, passed in a 332 to 94 vote, an overwhelming show of bipartisan unity that trumped the token opposition from 62 conservative Republicans. The Senate could approve the legislation next week.
The budget represented a modest compromise that didn’t satisfy either party. Speaker John Boehner had chastised conservatives and outside advocacy groups for mobilizing against the deal before its terms were finalized.
“Is it perfect? Does it go far enough? No, not at all,” the speaker said in a floor speech before the vote. “But this budget is a positive step in that direction; it’s progress.”(NBC Politics)
For what it’s worth, Democrats’ weren’t exactly thrilled about it as well…
Democrats weren’t fully mollified, either: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Calif., encouraged fellow Democrats to “embrace the suck” and support the measure during a closed-door meeting at the Capitol on Thursday.(NBC Politics)
So, what was in the budget deal?
- For starters, there is no “Grand Bargain” kind of deal as in months past; both Paul Ryan & Patty Murray, the architects of the budget deal, have both said this and by-and-large, they were right
- There are modest increases in discretionary spending (including increases in spending on Head Start, medical research and military training)
- There were no increases in income tax rates; however, fees in several areas did increases, most notably those involving airline fees and airline excise taxes
- Finally, this a long-term budget deal that takes away the potential of future government shutdowns through the end of FY 2014 (i.e. through 30 Sept. 2014)
Now, is this a good deal? FWIW, its’ not the best deal that could be gotten; for instance, there aren’t, at present, extensions in long-term unemployment insurance, included in this agreement, but given the often stop-start nature of past agreements, it is better than past agreements and that is an improvement over past budget deals.
I’m of two minds on this budget agreement (as it currently stands)…on the one hand, it doesn’t seem to do enough to eliminate the sequester all-together; on the other hand, there will at least be no Grand Bargain that could put Social Security and Medicare in jeopardy and that is a good thing.
Just minutes ago, the Senate by a margin of 83-16, voted to consider final passage of the budget deal that will end the 16+ day government shutdown and brought us to the brink of fiscal calamity; While a second vote on final passage is required to send the budget deal to the House, for all intents-and-purposes, this bill will get through the Senate.
(UPDATE) Final passage in the Senate was 81-18, according to CNN.
Here’s the basics of the deal announced earlier this afternoon on the Senate floor…
- Government to be re-opened and funded at current sequestration levels until Jan. 15th
- Debt ceiling to be raised and extended out to Feb. 7th subject to Congressional vote (which can be vetoed by Pres. Obama)
- Budget conference to be established between both houses of Congress to work on a long-term budget agreement by no later than Dec. 13th
- Income verification for those purchasing health insurance through the Health Exchanges
- Full backpay for furloughed workers
In case you still think this was a good deal for the Republicans, here’s the things they didn’t get to include in this package…
- Continuation of the “extraordinary measures” provision allowing the Treasury Dept. to continue stretching out the debt ceiling as needed
- No prohibition on Congressional staffers utilizing subsidies to purchase health insurance through the Exchanges
- No restrictions on birth control access through insurance policies w/in the Exchanges
- No repeal and/or delay in either the medical device tax OR the medical reinsurance tax
- No repeal or delay in any aspect of either the Health Exchanges OR the ACA’s Individual Mandate
To be fair, there was a bit of give-and-go from both sides; for instance, Democrats have all-but-accepted that government funding will continue at current sequestration levels, which means this deal could (and I emphasize could) have the potential to blow up in the Dems’ faces when Jan. 15th rolls around. That said, this is still a good deal for Democrats because it, (a)gets the government open again & keeps the government running for some time, (b)lifts the spectre of a debt ceiling default (although there may still be repercussions from even getting this close to it) and (c)it potentially gives Democrats a major political weapon to use against Republicans come election time as they can go to voters and argue that Republicans cannot be trusted with the instruments of power, as witnessed by the govt. shutdown and debt ceiling debates.
Of course, all this depends on whether this deal gets through both houses…if it snags anywhere, then to quote Jackass’s Johnny Knoxville, “We’re all just pissing in the wind.”
Earlier today the Senate, by a vote of 54-44, passed its’ own version of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded and sent it over to the House sans’ the cuts to Obamacare spending that the House (or more precisely, the House GOP) had inserted into the CR the first go-round.
Now comes the Kabuki theatre part and judging by President Obama’s remarks just a little while ago, he ain’t budging from his insistence that the House pass a clean CR without all the poison pill items the House would love to put in a CR just to screw over the American people. When you think about it, why should the President bow to GOP demands; with no re-election to worry about himself, Pres. Obama is a helluva’ lot more willing to call the Republicans’ bluff on the debt ceiling, even if it forces a default on the debt, something he sure as hell wasn’t willing to gamble with 2 years ago.
Put simply, unlike 2011, Obama and the Democrats’ in Washington have the advantage of time at present…and as I pointed out earlier this week, the House really doesn’t have many options save for working with House Democrats to pass a clean CR that keeps the government funded period.