Out of all the spinning plates in the air — the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the sequester, and more — the one that could have been really disruptive before Election Day was just handled successfully: John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama have all agreed to a six month spending bill at current levels that will push all other decisions on spending off until the next Congress.
What we have here is an agreement by Congressional leaders; it still needs to be affirmed by votes in the House and Senate, and that won’t come until after the August recess ends. A lot of Tea Party Members of the House have wanted to achieve cuts well below the levels agreed to in last year’s budget deal, which is $19 billion higher than what the House-passed budget called for. We’ll have to see how many of them vote against the bill that will enact this agreement; if many of them bail, we’ll have to see if enough Democrats are willing to bail out the House GOP leadership to ensure that it passes.
If the deal does hold, this will stand as another successful maneuver by John Boehner; he’ll have averted a government shutdown just weeks before the election, one that most observers believe would be a disaster for Mitt Romney and Congressional Republicans. If extra votes on abortion and health care were the price to get his conference on board for this one, it’s an excellent deal for Republicans.
Ultimately, what this really shows again that strongly opposed positions need not lead to gridlock and dysfunction. Granted, a six month temporary deal isn’t exactly the ideal kinds of legislating and budgeting that would win anyone an “I’m Just a Bill” pin, but it sure beats the kind of brinkmanship and refusal to compromise that Tea Partiers insisted on in 2011, and that many of them are demanding on the campaign trail this year (see, for example, today’s Texas Senate run-off).
This deal is not worth three cheers for Congress — after all, they are supposed to be passing a whole series of appropriations bills this summer instead of kicking the can well into 2013. But it is worth one cheer, at least. If the deal holds, Romney may have dodged a bullet. There’s still plenty of time for unforeseen events to shake up the presidential race, but if this deal holds, a government shutdown won’t be one of them.