Let us now focus our attention on some members of Congress — from both political parties — who have been given the task of working out a long-term federal budget agreement that prevents charades such as the one that just ended.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan — who chair the Senate and House budget committees, respectively — are going to begin talking between themselves. They’re both serious politicians (no irony intended, honest) but their task is monumental, given the institutional refusal of both legislative chambers to adopt any kind of strategic approach to these problems.
We came within a few hours this week of defaulting on our nation’s debt obligations. The two-week-long government shutdown sucked an estimated $24 billion from the nation’s economy. It turns out we’ll pay our bills and the government has reopened fully.
President Obama signed the bills into law late Wednesday and said the end of this budget battle removes the “cloud of unease” that had been hovering over the financial world.
I beg to differ, Mr. President.
The unease has just taken a brief respite. It’ll likely return in January and again in February. The money to run the government runs out in January; our borrowing limit expires in February. Many of us out here believe we’ll be right back at it again when those deadlines approach.
Of the two budget panel chairs, Ryan has the more difficult task, given the role the tea party wing of the GOP — of which he is a member — played in prolonging the ridiculous drama that unfolded. The House Republican caucus will continue to fight to eradicate the Affordable Care Act, which only just now has been implemented. They don’t like it and predict all kinds of catastrophe will befall the nation if it is allowed to live on.
Ryan is considered to be a serious and thoughtful young man. I’m withholding my final judgment on him. I’m not sure he’ll be able to resist the enormous pressure he’ll feel from the extreme right wing of his party, although I retain some faith he’ll be able to work constructively with Democrats on his committee and with the likes of Chairwoman Murray in the Senate.
Here’s a bit of advice from out here in the Heartland. Work until you get a deal. You have no need to take extended recesses between now and Christmas. You have much to do and the public — into whose faces you spit when you closed much of the federal government — pay you folks a pretty fair wage to solve these problems.
Finally, Democrats and Republicans can learn from the memories of two presidents — Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. Both men knew how to work the system. They perfected the art of principled compromise.
Now … let’s get busy.