Once Again, Congress Reluctant to Pursue Big Reforms

Blog Post
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Congressional negotiators are reportedly moving towards a limited budget agreement that would avoid another government shutdown but generally fails to pursue substantial fiscal reforms.

A budget conference committee was given until this Friday to come up with a belated compromise plan to fund the government in Fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1. Hopes have focused largely on private talks between House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

While details remained uncertain early this week, the developing deal would reportedly raise the sequester-level discretionary spending caps for two years and offset the increase with fee hikes, broadcast spectrum auctions and higher contributions from federal workers to their retirement plans.

This agreement would allow the appropriations process to go forward in a more regular manner than in the crisis environment of recent years. But it would simply kick many critical issues – from revamping the tax code to reforming the entitlement programs – down the road.

In addition, the plan would not curb the projected growth of the federal debt or address the need to raise the statutory debt limit by early next year.

“That this can be declared a victory is an indicator of how low the process has sunk," Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, told The Washington Post. "They haven’t really done anything except avoid another crisis.”

Even this low bar may prove to be too high as some lawmakers in both parties have registered objections to certain parts of the reported deal.