Budget, Senate, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, House, Donald Trump, debt ceiling,

Senate Agree On Budget Deal…For Now

By David Malcolm

The time of stopgap funding and shutdown threats might be over for a couple of years as Senate leaders close in on a two-year bipartisan budget deal that will deal with the debt ceiling and see military and domestic funding increase. If it passes through Congress and if Trump signs it, Americans can finally put the idea of a government shutdown out of sight and out of mind for another couple of years when the next big partisan fight threatens the nation’s federal workers.

The end seems to be in sight. This could be a time for celebration and a huge sigh of relief for both sides for finally getting a budget deal hammered out after a year of ups and downs. All they need is the right number of votes. It’s that simple!

But this is Washington 2018 in the era of Trump. Nothing is ever that simple. The deal has to pass through the House of Representatives as a standalone defense funding bill from the House comes to the Senate. The latter is unlikely to pass through the Senate but the Senate’s deal has a rocky start to a very uncertain path. Even at the time of writing, the exact parameters are still uncertain, including how long the debt ceiling will last.

But wait, there’s more!

The Government Tab

The budget posed a tricky question over who gets the most funding, the military or the domestic front? According to the Senate, the answer was obvious: both, of course. This is America, after all! We don’t care where it comes from, we just need to spend more of it to solve all the problems in the world. The days of harsh fiscal measures including the mandatory caps on military spending are long gone, to be replaced by spending, spending and more spending. After all, if Republicans can pass a tax bill that adds $1.5tn to the 10-year budget deficit and gives billionaires a tax cut, how can this go wrong?

Oh, but it can go wrong and the fiscal hawks in the House are not happy with the deal. Sure, they might have passed the tax bill, but that was clearly different! They won’t like the increase in spending, especially without some cutbacks elsewhere or some idea as to where the money’s coming from. Shame Trump can’t ask his billionaire friends to chip in a few dollars…

But fiscal hawks with bad memories aren’t the only problem…

Dreamers Out?

Schumer’s sticking to his word! To McConnell, this is, not the Democratic base. As promised, there is no mention of Dreamers within the budget agreement and Paul Ryan has refused to commit to putting new legislation related to Dreamers on the calendar just yet. After months of holding out, Schumer has apparently caved in and decided to, once again, trust the wrong kind of people.

It doesn’t take a political genius to know that Democrats inside the House and their liberal base will be fuming at this. Dreamers have been a hot topic for months and standing in their corner gave Democrats a sort of moral high ground in the shutdown fight. Now, it appears Schumer is worried about the shutdown backfiring on him over the argument.

Splits are already appearing. Nancy Pelosi is threatening to withdraw support from any deal that leaves Dreamers out, not surprising as she spent four hours before the announcement speaking on behalf of Dreamers. There is plenty for her to like about the deal such as disaster-relief funds and money to fight the opioid crisis, but with Dreamers apparently off the table, things might get nasty.

The One That Matters

It’s ironic that the great negotiator himself, Donald Trump, was nowhere to be seen throughout the entirety of the talks. This probably confirms what many have already known: Trump is no dealmaker. If anything, he is the ultimate dealbreaker and this is no exception. After all, it wouldn’t be a bipartisan deal if it wasn’t fragile enough for Trump to break via Twitter.

Any day that Republicans and Democrats can agree on something should be a cause for celebration. As dramatic and exciting as bitter partisan struggles can be sometimes, history has shown that where majorities are slim and issues are dire, compromise and co-operation is a smarter way forward. Who doesn’t like a win-win situation?

Trump doesn’t! He wants the win for himself and only himself. He wants his wall and apparently, he wants another government shutdown to teach the Democrats a lesson. The deal still has a long way to go and even if it clears the House, Trump hasn’t indicated that he’ll sign it. In fact, he’s got plenty of time and plenty of ways to ruin yet another carefully negotiated deal and send his own party spiraling into chaos.

To Pass or Not To Pass

The deal is still up in the air for the most part. For one thing, many lawmakers do not share Trump’s desire for yet another shutdown, especially as both parties are looking ahead to November. On the other hand, it’s not clear whether a combination fo fiscal hawks and angry liberals is enough to bring down the bill. Both factions will play merry hell with their party’s unity if they manage to block the bill. Even a close vote might spell future trouble later on.

Trump’s potential as a wildcard deal-wrecker is also making some lawmakers edgy. Will he shatter the deal with one fell Tweet? Will he contradict everyone’s position? Will he refuse to sign the deal, just to see a shutdown happen again? It seems unlikely, but nothing is impossible where Trump is concerned.

The deal is a decent sign of what co-operation can do, but it’ll be a long march through the bitter teeth of partisan politics before it hits Trump’s desk…if it even gets that far.

I'm a historian based in the UK who likes jumping from one thought to next. I love to learn new things and explore other ideas.

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