This budget, which will last a “blissful” two years, has most often been described (generously, I think) as “modest.” It is also a modest miracle that any budget agreement made it out of committee.
For three years, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has gotten a lot of political mileage by manipulating the timing of expiring “continuing resolutions” (temporary, stopgap spending authorizations), so that we lurched from one false crisis to the next.
But the time for lurching may be over. The Washington Post quoted a Republican pollster, Glen Bolger, as wondering if Republicans intend to be “an unserious party” that unrealistically seeks to get “the whole ball of wax.” He added, “We have to stop being the dysfunctional equivalent of the Washington Redskins.” Ouch.
So this time, Congress has gone from Procrustean, one-size-fits-all cuts to a pseudo-Solomonic plan that has domestic and defense programs each receiving an equal reprieve, splitting the money almost down the middle. The cap on total spending has been raised from $967 billion to $1.01 trillion. All in all, about half of the automated sequester cuts have been restored, giving the Pentagon a big sigh of relief, and enabling children, such as those in Head Start, to also benefit from their parents’ taxes.
Is everyone happy? This is Washington. No, hardly anyone is satisfied with the plan, but many (hopefully, most) recognize it’s better to achieve some stability by agreeing to modest steps than to continue crisis brinksmanship, especially with a congressional election year upon us.
For members of Congress, the polls are their reality show. (I’m not sure if the polls are like “Survivor” or “American Idol,” but never mind.) President Obama’s approval is at about 42 percent, which is pretty low. Congress’ approval is at 10 percent, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, and 7 percent in a Guardian/YouGov poll.