Budget deal step forward for divided Congress

GUEST OPINION

RATHER THAN HOLDING OUT and refusing any compromise, Congress was ready to settle, at least when it comes to the federal budget.

Rather than wade into the turbulent waters of another government shutdown, Congress approved a spending plan that can be measured in years and not months

The House last week passed a bipartisan spending plan authored by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The Senate approved and President Barack Obama has said he will sign the deal.

Judging by the reactions from Washington, the agreement was neither embraced nor rejected. Instead, lawmakers accepted for what it is - a small step that lends some certainty to the funding of government operations.

Both Wisconsin senators, despite some misgivings about the deal, voted for it. Their reactions to the bill were similar to those of many lawmakers in Congress.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said of the budget deal, “on balance the good outweighs the bad.” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, R-Madison, said, “It’s certainly not perfect but it is progress.”

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, voted for it in the House, saying, “Our nation’s businesses, families and our own government can finally plan for the future knowing what Washington is going to do.”

Nobody likes the whole thing, but it’s better than nothing.

We’ll take it a step farther - it’s much better than nothing. It doesn’t even come close to that low standard.

What it does, first of all, is set a spending plan through October 2015 - almost two years from now. That’s no small feat given that the federal government has been operating on continuing resolution after continuing resolution for years.

That’s no way to conduct business. It wouldn’t be tolerated in any company, and it shouldn’t be tolerated in the nation’s capital.

Budget deals that expire after several months and then require another round of negotiations hurt government agencies because there’s no certainty. It’s difficult to implement and run some programs not knowing if funds will be available in several months when the short-term budget deal ends.

Second, it represents compromise, something that has been in short supply in this Congress. Reaching bipartisan agreement on a bill that neither side fully embraces has been unheard of.

Also, it shows the lawmakers’ distaste for a government shutdown may match their constituents’.

The details of the budget offer a mixed bag for both sides of the aisle. It would ease some of the across-the-board cuts due to sequestration, it calls for some fee increases, but it would not extend federal unemployment benefits, which would affect 24,000 Wisconsinites who would be cut off from long-term jobless benefits on Dec. 28. It would increase the deficit slightly over the next two years before cutting it by $23 billion over 10 years.

There is probably just as much to like in the bill as there is not to like in the budget, but the agreement marks a step forward, after years of moving backward.

We’ll take that tiny bit of progress and hope to build on that. — Green Bay Press Gazette, Dec. 17

At issue:
Budget compromise
Bottom line:
Right step, about time


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