On U.S. Hill, Fiscal Issues May Fade From View At Least Briefly

Published Apr 16, 2013. By John Shaw.


WASHINGTON (MNI) - For more than two years, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have been in almost daily pitched battles over fiscal policy.

This seemingly endless skirmishing appears poised to slow down for a few months, but then resume this summer as Congress and the White House move toward another fight over the debt ceiling.

Budget experts say it's too soon to know if the president and congressional leaders will use this brief respite from fiscal fighting to quietly explore a compromise that will allow for a relatively smooth passage of debt ceiling legislation before Congress's August recess.

"We've reached a point where there are no hard deadlines until the debt ceiling," says Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition.

"That can be good or bad. Good in the sense that deadlines we faced over the past couple of years have not been helpful in reaching an agreement. Bad in the sense that when you take the pressure off, policymakers don't always use this quieter time productively. Our political system seems to respond to crises and hard deadlines," he adds.

In the coming weeks, the congressional debate seems likely to be dominated by gun control and immigration reform legislation and now, in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, terrorism.

At a briefing at the end of last week, House Speaker John Boehner vowed to keep fiscal issues in sharp focus.

"Listen there are a lot of important issues that the American people want us to address. Yes, the issue of guns is a hot issue today. So is the issue of immigration," he said.

"I would that one of the biggest challenges facing us is our long-term structural debt problem that's going to imprison the future for our kids and our grandkids. It's hurting the economy today, hurting the ability of people to get jobs, holding down wages. There are a lot of things that we need to do--we need to deal with and we're going to hopefully deal with all of them," he added.

--MNI Washington Bureau; tel: +1 202-371-2121; email: [email protected]