Washington: When it Works

Photograph by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrive for a press conference to announce a bipartisan budget deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 10, 2013 in Washington, DC.

It’s not as big a story, it seems, when Washington works.

Instead of weeks of fretting and recrimination over another government shutdown, Congress appears headed in a couple of days to resolution of an agreement negotiated by bipartisan leaders that will keep the government running for a while.

The agreement eases planned spending cuts known as sequestration by about $63 billion over two years and reduces the federal deficit by $23 billion, “breaking a three-year cycle of fiscal standoffs,” as Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla and Derek Wallbank report. If approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-run House, as expected, it will avert another shutdown when the current funding authority for the government expires on Jan. 15.

“It is an important step in helping heal some of the wounds here in Congress,” Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, said today at a news conference.  House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, called it “a step in the right direction.” Ryan added: “In divided government, you don’t always get what you want.”

The chairmen reached this deal a few days ahead of their self-set Dec. 13 deadline, and while  Przybyla and Wallbank note that “selling the agreement in Congress won’t be easy, as skepticism has emerged in both political parties,” Ryan has offered this prediction about his own cantankerous chamber: “I think we will pass this through the House.”

So no shutdown, no furloughed federal workers — maybe even no filibuster?

The idea that two warring parties can operate one government.

Heading into the 2014 midterm elections, no less.

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner speaking in accord.

`This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like – and I know many Republicans feel the same way,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House tonight on his way home to Washington. “That’s the nature of compromise. ”

The agreement will, the president said,  `break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making.” Once approved by both houses, the president stands ready to sign a budget enabling the economy to grow “without more Washington headwinds.”

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in his own statement issued tonight: “While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings.”

And so, if approved, the headlines surrounding this unusual agreement will be gone as soon as Congress is for the holiday at week’s end, with a year of showdown drama closing in rare harmony — not much of a spectacle in modern terms.

Unless the absence of conflict should become real news.

What a Washington story.


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