On Tuesday, I joined Thomas Roberts and ex-Sen. Judd Gregg on MSNBC to talk about the Ryan-Murray budget deal. Gregg made an argument that's become common in Washington. The deal, he said, showed there was a path forward in which the two parties could compromise and work together. It was a place to start, not a place to end.
I disagree completely. The deal shows there are ways in which the two parties can work together. But only when they don't have to compromise.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said so himself at the news conference announcing the agreement. "From the outset, we knew that if we forced each other to compromise a core principle we would get nowhere," he said. "That is why we decided to focus on where the common ground is."
That meant no taxes. It meant no changes to Medicare, Social Security, or Medicaid. It meant letting unemployment insurance expire. It meant doing nothing about crumbling infrastructure or Obamacare. It meant leaving most of sequestration in place.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) tried to put a brighter spin on the deal.
Over the past few years, we have lurched from crisis to crisis and from one cliff to the next. And when one countdown clock was stopped, it wasn't too long before the next one got started. That uncertainty was devastating to our fragile economic recovery. The constant crisis cost us billions of dollars in lost growth and jobs and the continued across-the-board cuts from sequestration were forcing our families and communities to pay the price.
So I am very proud to stand here today with Chairman Ryan to announce we have broken through the partisanship and the gridlock and reached a bipartisan budget compromise that will prevent a government shutdown in January.
Yes, this deal prevents a government shutdown three months after the last government shutdown. But that's the only crisis or cliff it solves. Unemployment is still expiring for millions of long-term jobless workers. The debt ceiling still needs to be raised in the spring -- and Ryan is now trying to tie it to the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The vast majority of sequestration remains in place. There's no serious hope of progress on overhauling the tax code or reforming the immigration system or passing legislation to fight global warming.
Ryan and Murray struck the best deal they could without compromising on anything either side really cared about. But that just goes to show that doing anything significant requires compromise. This deal doesn't show that Congress is finally working again. It shows that the two parties have accepted that it's broken.