A baby-steps budget deal
The federal budget deal announced Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is not nearly as broad-brush as we and many other observers would like to see.
It is more a baby step than a grand bargain, but it is a bipartisan budget agreement, something that has seemed nearly impossible to reach in this bitterly divided, dysfunctional Congress. It is expected to be voted on in the House today.
It is also a compromise, something that critics on the far right and extreme left seem incapable of understanding or accepting. As Murray said, the plan is “an important step in helping to heal some of the wounds here in Congress and show we can do something without another crisis around the corner.”
We hope all members of Colorado’s congressional delegation will vote for it, especially our own 3rd District Rep. Scott Tipton. Failure to do so would put this country at risk of another government shutdown and, more importantly, prolong the economic and business uncertainty that has slowed our economic recovery.
The budget agreement has some of the most conservative members of Congress upset because it would eliminate a total of $63 billion in sequester cuts that would otherwise take effect over the next two years. Democrats are primarily upset because the deal would not extend unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed.
However, the agreement would restore $2 billion in military cuts that otherwise would take effect — which many conservatives want — and add $22 billion for domestic programs that Democrats support.
To make up for ending the sequester cuts, the agreement would raise billions of dollars over the next decade by increasing the amount of pension contributions required from federal employees hired in the future, reducing payments to student-loan debt collectors and raising TSA fees for airline flights.
The agreement is billed as accomplishing all this without raising taxes. And, although some will no doubt argue that increased airline ticket prices from the TSA fees amount to a tax increase for the flying public, there is no general income-tax hike.
Furthermore, it sets spending levels for the current budget year, which began in October, and for next year, as well. As such, it would bring a level of certainty to federal spending for the next 20 months that hasn’t existed for several years.
We would prefer to see a grand bargain that not only deals with the annual budget but tackles entitlement spending and reforms the tax code, as well. But it has been clear for the past few years that such a bargain is not achievable in the current, deeply divided Congress.
But this is an important first step, albeit a small one, to show the two sides can work together to fulfill a key congressional responsibility. We hope it can be a step toward resolving larger issues in the near future.