Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not "overexcited" about the budget

Yesterday the Senate voted 64-36 in favor of a budget bill. The House passed the bill last week by a vote of 332-94. What kinds of bills pass by these kinds of majorities? Only bills that are not controversial and not partisan. This means that the big news of the day is that--finally--passing the budget has moved into the category of legislation that is not controversial and not partisan. It's just the boring old budget. Sure there are a lot of programs in the budget that are controversial or only supported by one party or the other. But the way Congress is supposed to deal with those kinds of controversies is by horse trading or simply allowing the status quo to persist if they cannot agree on changes. And that is exactly what they did this time.

Press Secretary Jay Carney reported that the administration is not getting "overexcited" about the budget deal, and that in itself is also a sign of progress. When Congress passes a budget, that action should be greeted with "ho hum," instead of with cries of triumph.

I've written quite a few posts about budget battles during the Obama administration. (I count 17 posts with the label "budget" this year alone.) And that's not because I particularly care about the budget. I don't. What I care about is the political process that we use to pass the budget. And if I have to write about the budget process less frequently than in the past five years, I will be only too happy to write about more interesting subjects.

At the same time, I can't help feeling a little bit triumphant that one of the main promises of the Obama administration--that we will approach the operations of government in a more problem-solving and inclusive way--is finally being fulfilled. Finally Republicans seem resigned to the fact that they are in the minority. Finally they have decided that it is no longer a good political strategy for them to treat every single issue that comes before Congress as an opportunity for an epic battle. The opposition can accomplish more by being part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

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