A new budget deal proposed to Congress is likely to pass the Senate next week, meaning that we don’t have to talk about the goddamn US budget for another year and a half. Hurrah! In the process rifts have been torn, men have been made, and our government has actually gotten something kinda sorta done. Call it a Christmas miracle.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) win Effective Politicians of the Week for their bipartisan budget plan, which passed the House on Thursday night (by a 332–94 vote) and is expected to pass the Senate early next week. (Murray is the Senate Budget Chairman, and Ryan is the Chairman for the House Budget Committee.)
In October, Congress’ unwillingness to reach compromise led to a 16-day government shutdown. Although a lot of that debate involved funding for the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., “Obamacare”), there were also some disagreements over sequestration cuts that took effect in January 2013, among other budget items. Neither party is getting everything on their wishlist this time around, but coming to a quick budget agreement will prevent another government shutdown come January 2014, when the budgets for 2014–15 are due.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Ryan-Murray budget plan:
It’s actually pretty weak. This deal doesn’t save the federal government a ton of money, just $28 billion over 10years. Our national debt is now $14 trillion. Some simple math tells me that $28 billion amounts to .2 percent of the debt, which is a smaller percentage than your chance to be hit by lightning. (Or breeding shiny Gen IV Pokemon.) There are lots of other means to address the deficit (tax reforms, issuing bonds, etc.), so don’t get too hung up on this point. Just know that this plan doesn’t address long term debt in any way.
Even more things it doesn’t address: Unemployment benefits (and boy are the Dems mad about that), the sequester cuts, and the debt ceiling were all conveniently left out. Remember I said there are lots of ways to reduce deficit? The sequester is one of them, and it has a lot of critics. In 2011 when the Feds realized how close to the debt ceiling we were getting, they signed The Budget Control Act (exactly as it sounds); part of that included the “sequester” that would save $85 billion over eight years, starting in 2013 by cutting spending to federal programs. The current Ryan-Murray budget deal moves around $63 billion of the sequester cuts but does not trim the cuts back. It doesn’t address the debt ceiling either, meaning that Congress must still decide on whether to raise the debt ceiling before the deadline on Feb. 7, 2014.
Will parties actually agree to it?: Before the Ryan-Murray budget deal even came out Tuesday night, some far-right conservatives were already opposing it. Speaker John Boehner got really pissed about this, magically grew a pair, and told them off in style. This is being called a “turning point” both for Boehner and the Republicans as they separate themselves from Tea Partiers and the far Right, giving them a lot more credibility for 2016.
President Paul Ryan? He either helped or hurt his Presidential 2016 prospects, depending on who you ask. Ryan, who ran on the Romney ticket in 2012, is now distinguishing himself as a compromiser who can reach to both sides of the aisle, something the Republicans will need to do in the next election, especially if they do continue pulling away from the far Right.
Two for you, Patty Murray: Patty Murray isn’t getting as much attention as Ryan for this budget deal, probably because she is already an established liberal who’s served in the Senate for 20 years, and she isn’t a Presidential hopeful. But it took two to tango in this budget deal to Congress, so good job Murray! You go girl!
Keep your eyes on the ticker for the Senate vote expected next week (because they really want to go on Christmas vacay already), and cross your fingers for the inevitable debt ceiling talk we’re not having now. Even though this deal isn’t giving everyone what they want, it’s a bipartisan agreement worth savoring. Baby steps.
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What do you think about the Ryan-Murray Budget Plan? Tweet us @litdarling!