We Have A Budget Deal, So Everything's Beautiful, For Now
Negotiators from Congress and the White House reached an agreement yesterday on a deal to raise spending limits for two years, preventing automatic cuts and a probable government shutdown that would have been triggered in October without a deal. The agreement would also raise the debt limit for two years, preventing the possibility of an economic disaster if the US defaulted on its national debt.
Now all we need to keep the government running is for the House and Senate to pass actual legislation, and for Donald Trump to sign it. In other words, depending on how angry Trump is when the eventual bill hits his desk, we could still be fucked, hooray! Oh, yes, and then at some point Congress will have to pass actual spending bills -- this deal is simply the umbrella under which all that spending can happen, without automatic cuts passed by previous Republican deficit hawks.
For the moment, at least, Donald Trump, or whoever was running his Twitter account, was pleased to take credit for the deal:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued their own statement promising quick legislation to "avoid the damage of sequestration and continue to advance progress for the people." The spending authorization affects discretionary spending -- the part of the budget that isn't automatically required, unlike Social Security and payroll. The deal will increase both defense and non-defense spending, a bit higher than current levels, so goodbye to Donald Trump's promise to slash domestic spending. As Vox notes, the agreement
would raise spending caps by about $50 billion this year and another $54 billion the following year. It would also lift the nation's debt limit for two years, while avoiding massive spending cuts.
That's a good deal for Democrats and a big retreat from the Trump administration, which called for $150 billion in spending cuts. The budget cuts in this deal would likely go into effect down the road, which means there's a chance a future Congress will overturn them down the line.
The deal would set a budget outline for the remainder of Trump's term, precluding -- probably -- any government shutdowns over the debt limit, but that two-year time frame, with the deal expiring in July 2021, sets up another goddamned budget framework fight in what ought to be the first year of a new Democratic administration. And even supposing Democrats take both houses of Congress, a Dem majority will mean Republicans return to "DEBT IS HORRIBLE AND INTOLERABLE" mode. Adam Jentleson, former chief of staff to retired Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid, predicts it could get very ugly and possibly derail any progressive agenda:
"The timing of it really bugs me. It sets up a crisis of the first year of the next president's administration," Jentleson said of the July 31, 2021, deadline for the borrowing limit. "We're letting them light the fuse on another bomb and place it squarely in the middle of the next president's first year in office" [...]
"They just handed" Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "a major weapon to use against the next president if this deal goes through," Jentleson added, arguing that the agreement would give Republicans "a massive amount of agenda-setting power" to thwart a progressive agenda at a time of "maximum leverage and maximum political capital" for a new president.
Well, fuck. What that means, of course, is that electing big Dem majorities in 2020 just became all the more important, but even if Dems manage to do it, Rs will have tailor-made screaming points ready to pump out through Fox News. Maybe one priority of a Democratic president and Congress could be getting rid of the idiotic deficit-hawk laws of the last 20 years, since nobody follows them anyway? Yes, we have a rich fantasy life. HOLLOW MORDANT LAUGHTER HERE.
You may be shocked to learn that Republican budget hawks are already making all sorts of outraged noises about the terrible terrible debt limit increase, and spent much of the last month urging Trump to walk away from an agreement because debt BAD. Those would mostly be the same Republicans who voted for the 2017 Big Fat Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads, which adds about $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.
Vox has a nice splainer on how we got into this dumb ritual, thanks largely to limits on spending that Republicans insisted on in order to be persuaded not to drive the economy off a cliff.
The details of the deal were reportedly worked out in a series of phone calls between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, after White House Budget director (and acting chief of staff) Mick Mulvaney and other White House budget hawks walked away from negotiations back in May. Why yes, when he was in Congress, Mulvaney was also "one of the Tea Party agitators who worked to block any increase to the debt limit," forcing Barack Obama to agree to the automatic spending cuts -- the sequester -- that this deal now avoids.
Ever since the one time those sequester limits kicked in, back in 2013, Republicans have screamed about how unfair the very budget limits they voted for were to our beautiful brave military. And that's why both parties have voted repeatedly to raise the budget caps; the most recent suspension of the spending and debt caps will expire in October, which is why this new deal is needed.
There's still no guarantee the deal will hold, because this is the "president" who made the government shut down in January after a different budget deal everyone thought was settled. To be able to start its August recess, Congress will have to pass an actual bill for Trump to sign next week, and he'll have to sign it, so there's no telling what his favorite official advisers on Fox News will tell him to do between now and then. For all we know, someone will scream the bill's lack of a "poison pill" -- like a guarantee of funding for WALL -- is actually a very bad thing, and then come October we could be looking at a government shutdown, a debt default, and the resulting economic chaos that would follow. And some asshole might well convince Trump that would be the greatest thing ever. Let's just hope nothing happens between now and then to send him into a rage-tizzy.
Happy Mueller Eve, all!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.