The political advantage of the budget agreement was its vagueness. It set overall spending levels for two years, a significant break from the recent pattern of short-term funding bills that required extension every few months, always under the threat of a government shutdown like the 16-day closure in October.
But it did not tackle the most volatile issues, such as Democratic demands for tax increases and Republican efforts to control spending on “entitlements,” such as the healthcare program for seniors, Medicare, or Social Security retirement.
While it set as a goal $1.012 trillion in spending, it did not specify how the sum would be divided up among individual programs, each of which has a constituency.
Indeed, once the budget bill is approved by the Senate, as expected next week, a more challenging and potentially acrimonious appropriations process will begin that could set off a scramble among advocates for particular interests.
"We have a heavy lift ahead of us," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, "drafting, negotiating, and passing these bills in just over one month."
DEBT CEILING UNRESOLVED
Since Republican House Speaker John Boehner enraged conservatives this week by pushing through the budget deal they equated with surrender, Ornstein believes he may feel a need to mollify them by again demanding big spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. - (Reuters)