Time for Bipartisan Talks on 2016 Spending, Debt Limit

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Controversy over the Confederate flag has apparently stalled congressional work on spending plans for the coming fiscal year, raising concerns about the possibility of a government shutdown this fall and underscoring the need for party leaders to begin serious bipartisan budget talks.

Consideration of an Interior-Environment spending bill was halted Thursday by House Republican leaders who feared worsening embarrassment over a Confederate flag amendment. Plans for a House vote on another spending measure were reportedly shelved as well.

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said Friday that his goal of passing all 12 appropriations bills by the August congressional recess would be “next to impossible.” After the recess, Congress will have only a few weeks left to pass all of the Fiscal 2016 spending bills or face a partial government shutdown.

Congressional leaders this year repeatedly talked of a more orderly budget process. Even before last week, however, Republicans were at odds with each other on some measures while ignoring Democratic objections and filibuster threats in the Senate.

Lawmakers must also raise the federal debt limit within the next few months so the government can meet its financial obligations and avoid roiling financial markets.

A new Government Accountability Office report says Washington’s 2013 debt-limit impasse caused investors to avoid certain Treasury securities, boosting federal borrowing costs by at least $38 million and perhaps much more.    

Prompt bipartisan negotiations are needed to avoid wasteful, last-minute floundering over 2016 spending and the debt limit.

External links:
House Cancels Vote to Allow Confederate Flag in Cemeteries (Reuters)
Market Response to Debt-Limit Impasses (GAO)
Debt Limit Brinksmanship Threatens Markets (BPC)

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