The crafty Senate majority and minority leaders announced a two-year budget deal that marks the end of the disastrous 2011 Budget Control Act. News reports indicate that “the plan eliminates mandatory spending cuts for two years and increases Pentagon spending by $80 billion and domestic spending by $63 billion for the 2018 fiscal year.” The bill includes funding for disaster relief, children’s health care and funding for fighting the opioid addiction. On the defense side of the ledger, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared, “First and foremost, this bipartisan agreement will unwind the sequestration cuts that have hamstrung our armed forces and jeopardized our national security. [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis said that, quote, ‘no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration.’ . . . We haven’t asked our men and women in uniform to do less for our country. We have just forced them to make do with less than they need. This agreement changes that.”
Here are the other important aspects of the deal:
1. Democrats won what they have been looking for since 2011 — an end to the painful cap on domestic spending. Both parties now can claim credit for fully funding the military.
2. The deal will likely enrage the Freedom Caucus (who grabbed onto the BCA as evidence of their fiscal bona fides but actually allowed the debt to balloon). House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is now compelled to put a bill on the floor that a majority of his conference does not like — or take responsibility for a shutdown. Having been forced to do this in the context of the budget, Ryan will be under greater pressure, as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in his remarks on the floor, to do the same on any “dreamer” deal that comes out of the Senate.
3. Pro-DACA advocates ironically have a better shot at getting a deal than they did when they were tying DACA to the budget. The reason: McConnell promised a shell bill will be put on the floor, allowing free-flowing amendments. If there are 60 votes (as backers of DACA insist), then they will get their bill out of the Senate regardless of what Stephen Miller or John F. Kelly or Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) want. Moreover, that bill very well could have none of the poison pills Trump wants stuffed into the deal (e.g., limits on legal immigration).
4. But the House won’t vote for DACA? That is likely the case, but the only shot the DACA proponents have is to pass the bill out of the Senate and apply pressure to Ryan to bring it to the House floor. If he does not (very possible), he and his fellow Republicans on the ballot in 2018 will face the voters. His insistence that he won’t allow a vote on a bill that Trump/Miller/Cotton don’t like will be evidence of his failure to fulfill his role as speaker of a co-equal branch. Moreover, just about everyone in town knows that if both houses pass a DACA fix, Trump won’t have the nerve to oppose it.
5. For all of Trump’s outbursts, cheers for a shutdown and determination that an egregious immigration bill be tied to the budget, McConnell ultimately ignored him. That is the key to future deals. The president is and can continue to be a non-player so long as the Senate operates on consensus. The House faces a choice, or rather Ryan does: Will he govern for the House and country or will he spend his (likely) last months as speaker carrying water for a failing president?
6. Schumer called the deal the “first green shoots” of bipartisanship. If this does unlock the budget jam, it portends well for infrastructure, votes to patch up Obamacare and other priorities. After often acting with the same untempered partisanship as the House, the Senate may manage to recover some of its luster — and functionality. Let’s hope Schumer is right.
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