As part of the agreement to reopen the government, a House/Senate conference committee was formed to negotiate a new budget. The last time we tried this, with the "Supercommittee," the two sides couldn't agree, and that failure triggered sequestration, which was supposed to be so terrible for both sides (defense cuts that Republicans don't like, domestic spending cuts Democrats don't like) that it would force them to do anything to avoid it. But it now seems that Republicans don't have too much of a problem with sequestration. They're moving toward the position that undoing sequestration isn't something everyone agrees should happen, but instead is a concession Republicans would be making to Democrats, for which they'd have to be repaid with something they want, like cuts to Social Security and Medicare.* Sound familiar? It's not that different from when they said they didn't want the government to shut down, but not shutting the government down was a concession for which they'd need something in return.
While anything could happen, it seems that the odds are stacked against the conference committee being able to come to an agreement. Republicans want not only to cut social insurance, but also to slash all kinds of domestic spending. Democrats don't want that. Democrats would like to see more tax revenue. Republicans don't want that. Finding agreement is going to be hard.
But there is a way out. What if everybody put aside their demands, just for a year? What if they passed a budget that didn't do anything big at all, but just funded the government at about the level it's at now? No sweeping changes to the tax code, no draconian cuts, just an ordinary old budget where we tweak some things here and there. Would that be so bad?