On the federal budget, a gift of bipartisanship?


House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks with Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13. (Jacquelyn Martin, The Associated Press)

The good news is that it appears increasingly likely that Congress will avoid another 11th-hour confrontation over the budget early next year like the one in October.

The bad news is that the deal to avert the crisis is likely to be small potatoes in contrast to the fixes needed to the major drivers of long-term growth in federal spending.

Still, let’s celebrate bipartisanship where we find it.

In this case, Rep. Paul Ryan -- the former Republican vice presidential candidate -- and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., reportedly are closing in a deal that could well attract enough support to pass both houses.

And it sounds like a genuine compromise, with members of both parties prepared to accept provisions they don’t actually support.

If it happens, the federal government would be able to cushion the impact from the next round of automatic cuts to discretionary programs scheduled for next year. Some of those cuts wouldn’t be a bad thing, but others are uncalled for or indefensible. The "sequester" policy’s blunt and indiscriminate nature must be addressed.

The trick is to find the savings elsewhere in ways palatable to both parties. But as Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told The New York Times, "This is a $3 1Ž2-trillion budget. The idea that you can’t find either cuts or sources of funding in something that large to split the difference ... there’s a way."

Unfortunately, the deal means that Congress will kick the can of a larger budget deal down the road. What would really restore public confidence in the political process is a deal that also slows the growth of entitlement spending while reforming the tax code to eliminate a variety of deductions and thus raise revenue.

But that would seem to require political leaders with more courage than those we have today.

~ The Denver Post


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