In the wake of the recent budget agreement on Capitol Hill, Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) reports that small, incremental deals could be the new way to complete legislative business.
Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, told CQ that the budget agreement was purposefully limited to avoid another government shutdown and support the economic recovery. He added that the question now is whether limited agreements can lead to greater bipartisan cooperation in the future.
“They (House Budget Chair Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray) settled for a bunt," Bixby said. "The question is whether this is the beginning of a new phase of bipartisan cooperation [on fiscal issues] ... or the end of any efforts to reach a grand bargain."
The CQ story, “Aim Low, Fire With Care,” by Adriel Bettelheim, notes that a new way to accomplish legislation is developing on Capitol Hill, in which caution and restraint felt by negotiators on both sides are used to craft small, unambitious deals that completes necessary business but does not include much substance for reform.
This type of deal-making has spread from the budget deal to include immigration and tax policy.
According to the report, as this “small ball” strategy takes a greater hold on Capitol Hill, making renewing major pieces of legislation has become increasingly difficult to accomplish.
The article notes that one such piece of legislation, the farm bill, has been stalled for months now as negotiators in both chambers struggle to reach an agreement. In September, Congress must reauthorize transportation programs, and resolve the growing gap between the cost of those programs and their funding from fuel taxes in the Highway Trust fund.