Posted by: JanF | December 13, 2013

In the News: A Two-Year Budget

Late Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a two-year budget with bipartisan support.

As would be expected from a bipartisan agreement, there are unhappy people on both sides of the aisle.

But the news, and the important news, is that we have a budget resolution which will fund the government for the next two years. When it passes the Senate, it means that for the first time in three years, we do not have to worry about government shutdowns being used as leverage to extract concessions, usually ones that take whacks at the social safety net.

The budget effectively ends, at least for two years, the across the board budget cuts known as the sequester. The sequester cuts were reduced in total by $22 billion and the process looked at what was being cut and made choices. For example, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) got a significant budget increase. This budget does not touch earned benefits programs like Social Security and Medicare. It does not touch the Affordable Care Act. (CBO Report).

On the right, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, all 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls in the Senate, and Heritage Action (Jim DeMint) hate it. (Note to the Purity Left: this is not a bandwagon you want to jump on.)

Most of the unhappiness from the left comes from what was not in the budget bill. But what is not in it can be fixed by passing another bill; it is not as though Congress is only allowed to pass one bill a year (although it seems that way!). What is in it will become the law of the land and that is the most important thing right now.

The biggest missing piece is the extension of long-term unemployment benefits. But if including that would have scuttled the deal and a bill extending the benefits can be presented separately, it is not really missing but simply delayed.

Greg Sargent points out that the Republicans will be facing intense pressure over unemployment benefits:

Now, it’s fair to question whether Democrats did enough to get a UI extension in the budget deal. Perhaps they could have drawn a harder line on the issue and used their leverage (Republicans will need Dems to pass the deal out of the House) more effectively.

But beyond those legitimate points, it needs to be understood that Dems have not given up on getting Republicans to agree to the UI extension. This could either be accomplished through a stand alone bill or an add on during the budget process, and Democrats continue to press Republicans behind the scenes.

Will any of this matter to Republicans? It’s hard to say, since so many are cosseted away in such safe districts that tough headlines may not matter to them. But the public statements from GOP leaders on the extension have seemed tepid, suggesting their opposition isn’t really visceral. It seems like they’d love for this issue to go away.

If House Republicans are made to vote on the unemployment benefits, their vote can (and will) be used by their Democratic challengers in 2014.

Now here’s the really good news. We have the bird in the hand and have not let it loose while reaching for more birds that we were unlikely to get. We can press for an up or down vote on a bill to extend unemployment benefits. AND when we win back the House of Representatives in 2014, we can change the budget to once again reflect the values of the Democratic Party … which coincidentally reflect the values of the American people.

Keep your eye on November 2014 and turn your outrage at the uncaring, morally bankrupt teaparty GOP into political activism.

Elections Matter. Every vote counts. And when we vote, we win.

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