- Congress has until December 13 to pass a budget. If they don't, we could have another shutdown when funding dries up on January 15. Given their track record of late (Exhibit A, B, and C), this may be a tall order.
- Much of the media seems to agree. For example, this shade-throwing New York Timesheadline: "Underachieving Congress Appears in No Hurry to Change Things Now."
- Once again leading the charge are Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan.
- Their budget prowess has won them the profile treatment in sessions past, if you want a dose of character study with your fiscal news.
- The two sides' biggest demands? Well, Democrats would like to see some of the sequester cuts on their favorite programs fade away—especially Head Start and low-income housing cuts. Republicans don't want to see any tax increases, and probably wouldn't mind if the defense cuts that went into effect after sequestration were banished.
- The worries about the deficit are a little funny, NPR notes, because "none of this discussion is really focused on the parts of the federal budget that are driving the long-term deficit. While we've got relief in the short-term, we're still looking at some real fiscal challenges in the long term, and those are driven by health care costs. But right now, it's a lot easier politically to talk about raiding Head Start slots or cutting aid for winter heating bills than it is to tackle something like Medicare."
- Although maybe we should stop worrying about the deficit all together.
- Potential ways to makes sure Congress can make sequestration cuts less awful while sticking to their budget targets? "Increased airline fees, changes in federal pension contributions and proceeds from auctioning electromagnetic spectrum."
- Most members of Congress are crossing their fingers this all works. They could use a win after this lousy year. Representative Tom Cole summed up where the budget it right now by saying, "They're not on the grand bargain scale, but let's just hit some singles around here for a while. We don't need to swing for the fences. Our batting average isn't very good so let's get on base."
- "Just get on base" may be all Congress is good for, at least for now. As Jared Bernstein noted in October, "I’m sorry to set sights so low, but the answer to 'how do we avoid another round of self-inflicting wounds?' may well be to accept the fundamental incompatibility born not just of divided government but of sharply different visions of government’s role. If that acceptance means we slog along with patches instead of traditional budget agreements, that’s better than shutdown and default."
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