Such an agreement would lift the threat of a government shutdown that has loomed over the budget and debt clashes of most of the year, providing some relief for federal workers who have faced the possibility of involuntary furloughs in recent months.
Despite the optimism, recent history suggests there could be trouble. It is not yet clear if rank-and-file members, many of whom were elected in 2010 promising never to back down from an opportunity to cut spending, will sign on.
The repeated clashes between the new GOP majority in the House and Democrats, who control the Senate and the White House, brought the government to the brink of a shutdown in April and close to financial default in August. For legislators whose public reputations have been bruised by the protracted sense of crisis, it may be a chance to show that Congress still knows how to complete its its day-to-day business.
The appropriations measures, the most crucial work Congress must get done each year, have been stalled for months over disagreement between the parties over a total amount of spending for the the year.
But in recent weeks, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have each indicated that Congress should accept the $1.043 trillion funding limit set in the recent deal to raise the nation’s legal borrowing limit, and have been urging that topline number on their GOP colleagues.
Right after the debt deal was completed, McConnell praised it for allowing Congress to return to a “normal appropriations process.” He noted the deal included agreements for overall spending levels not just for 2012, but also for fiscal year 2013.
“It’s my hope, and I know it’s the majority leader’s hope, that we will be able to do the basic work of government, which is the Appropriations Committee reporting bills, moving them across the floor of the Senate, and getting them done,” McConnell said.
Those statements are key because while the debt deal requires a $21 billion cut in spending for the coming fiscal year — the first step of $917 billion in cuts over the next decade negotiated in the deal — the Republican-led House had been on a path to slash even more.
The House already had approved six spending bills using the budget framework devised by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which included deeper spending cuts for the year.