On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama quietly and without fanfare agreed to a deal that would keep the government running at its current spending level — $1.047 trillion a year — for six months after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
The bill, known as a continuing resolution, will be voted on in September when the lawmakers return from their five-week August recess. The bill is certain to pass because if the funding isn’t in place for the start of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, the government — all but defense and emergency services — will begin shutting down.
The party seen as responsible takes the blame and generally suffers accordingly at the polls.
To get the agreement, Boehner had to override the tea party faction in the House that wanted to use the threatened shutdown to force $19 billion in cuts beyond those agreed to in the Budget Control Act last August and to extract $8 billion from other domestic spending to soften coming Pentagon budget cuts. The tea party caucus also had hoped to use the prospect of a shutdown to force Congress to begin defunding Obamacare.
The six-month extension means the spending issues don’t have to be resolved in what promises to be a hectic lame-duck session. If the votes on the dozen funding bills that run the government are pushed into the new year, they could — depending on how the fall elections turn out — become the problems of President Mitt Romney and a Senate newly controlled by the Republicans. A shutdown would have considerably lessened the prospects of that coming to pass.
Even without today’s hyper-partisanship, Congress annually fails to get its work done on time. Continuing resolutions, some of them renewed many times, have become a fact of legislative life.
The Boehner-Reid six-month budget extension was the responsible compromise solution to a problem in which all the alternatives were worse and, had they resulted in an extended shutdown, ruinous.