Hooray! A secret budget deal

REUTERS/Gary Cameron
John Boehner went public with the budget deal earlier today.

The White House and representatives of both houses of Congress have worked out a secret deal (although it hasn’t been secret that they were working on something like this) to avoid shutdown brinksmanship and debt-default brinksmanship for two years.

John Boehner went public with it today. It’s full of trade-offs, which means there’s also stuff in there for purists in both parties to hate. And, of course, this is very, very far from the way things are supposed to work in our form of government. It basically removes almost everything the government does from the regular order of things, moving from a presidential budget proposal through committees in both houses, then to the floors of both houses, then to the White House for a signature or veto.

Technically, all the secret negotiations will be cleansed of these problems when the deal passes both houses, which, at the moment, seems likely.

When he announced his resignation, Boehner had said that he hoped to “clean out the barn” before he left office so his successor (whom we now know to be Paul Ryan) won’t be immediately faced with a series of hostage crises in which he has to choose between shutdown/debt limit brinksmanship preferred by the Republican far right or having to give up his most powerful bargaining chips just to avoid those crises — and risk a palace coup for doing so.

For his part, Ryan denounced the process used to produce the deal. “Stinks” was the word he used. But he specified that this was about the process. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he’s pretty happy about the cleaner barn he will inherit.

Here’s an overview of what’s in the deal.

Here’s how Boehner explained his thinking in cutting this deal (as reported in this New York times update): “This deal isn’t perfect by any means – but everyone should acknowledge what our alternative was,” he said. “If we didn’t reach a bipartisan budget agreement, we would have been forced to accept another ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase.”

Translation: Boehner acknowledges that refusing to raise the debt ceiling and risking a default on the national debt cannot be allowed to happen and that, if it did happen, Republicans would be blamed. By making this deal, he gets concessions from the White House and the Democrats in Congress on certain Republican priorities, notably on more military spending and modest cuts in Medicare and Social Security spending for the disabled.

Those concessions are, of course, precisely the things that will force Democrats to hold their noses as they mostly go along with the deal. The Republican right will not like this because the concessions aren’t nearly big enough to slow down the Democrats’ efforts to destroy America. Presumably, hard-liners in both parties will vote against this, but it will likely pass without their votes.

As a way of doing business, this should be an outrage. But I say “hooray” anyway. Forgive me if you’ve heard this before, but ours is — structurally, because of the many choke points on the way to passing a law — the most gridlock-prone system in the world. So it requires bipartisan compromise more than almost any other system. But compromise has become a dirty word on the Republican right.

So, to avoid various threatened catastrophes and hostage-taking situations, saner heads have devised various extra-constitutional (but technically not unconstitutional) workarounds for regular order. This is the latest example, and I hope it will turn out to be one of the good ones.

The next question is whether, as a way of doing business, this will become the new normal.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 10/27/2015 - 03:59 pm.

    Have you noticed

    When something like a budget could screw up an election cycle they are able to work together. Take the election cycle away and we would be back to square one. It is an example of how phony Washington is. It’s time to put new people in place that don’t need to play games with their constituents lives.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/28/2015 - 07:31 am.

      I disagree

      I think it is precisely the new people, new Republicans, that are forcing something like this. This had to go back door because it is full of compromises, the very thing the “Freedom Caucus”, which is full of new legislators, refuse to do. Almost any budget deal is better than no budget deal and I bet Ryan is secretly happy for it.

      As long as people, mainly Republicans, keep electing zealots and amateurs, the national government is in trouble. The conservative wing of the Republican part used to be full of intellectuals, like William F Buckley, that I could disagree with but at least respect. Now it is full of know nothings, racists and chicken hawk warmongers and it’s intellectual center is controlled by radio and TV stars who emphasize outrage in order to increase their own ratings and bank accounts.

      I’m hoping that party divides in two soon so there is once again a legitimate counterbalance to the Dems. I haven’t voted for a Republican since Newt Gingrich pushed them into the exaggerated, hypocritical blowhards that led us to Iraq and endless “special committees” investigating nonexistent crimes. Had a Dem started the Iraq war based on that phony intelligence, they’d be in jail now.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 10/27/2015 - 10:14 pm.

    If you say hooray to closed back door deals, we have troubles. I can’t understand the need to pass laws that don’t get vetted and argued over by folks with opposing views in the light of day. How can liberals talk about GOP not compromising when Obama passed the Affordable Care Act by procedure without a Republican vote. Is that compromise? All we have to do is look at Obamacare and know that laws and deals that come with the Pelosi line of “we have to pass it to find out all the goodies in it” don’t work. Senate, House and President please do OUR business in the light of day so we have a clue as to what is going on!!

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 10/28/2015 - 10:13 am.

      by the light of day…

      I can see that no Democrat-supported or moderate proposal, no matter how good for the country, will ever pass through this house. By refusing to compromise or participate in governing they force the other side do take extraordinary actions.

    • Submitted by Thomas Eckhardt on 10/28/2015 - 11:34 am.

      Republicans had their input

      Obamacare was debated in Congress for a long time. The Republicans had a chance to contribute to the debate and chose to use scare tactics like “DEATH PANELS” to try to defeat it. That didn’t work for them. It’s immaterial that it received no Republican votes. It was passed by a majority of both houses of Congress that was elected by the American people. Is there a problem with that?

      Presidents have always cut deals with Congressional leaders. There is nothing illegal, immoral or unconstitutional about it. If Congress, as led by the Republican majorities, wasn’t so dysfunctional and had instead done their job, this deal wouldn’t have been necessary

  3. Submitted by joe smith on 10/28/2015 - 02:21 pm.

    How can you claim the GOP had any input with Obamacare? The Democrat speaker of the House didn’t know what was in it. The final draft WAS NOT read by the Democrats much less the GOP. Do not change history with lefty media creations, NO ONE knew what was in it besides the lobbyists and academic economists (no clue how real world works) who wrote it.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/28/2015 - 02:40 pm.

    It Would Be Nice If We Could Acknowledge the Reality

    that, just as when they had control of the Minnesota House and Senate,…

    so it is in D.C….

    our Republican friends will never actually pass anything that amounts to “regular order,”…

    because doing so will bring out the rage in some faction of their fractious,…

    and fragmenting coalition.

    As soon as they do ANYTHING they’ll be in trouble.

    So, lacking the courage to stand up and tell their constituents, “this needed to be done,”…

    they force the Democrats and the few remaining moderate Republicans to do the things that must be done,…

    such as maintaining a working government,…

    while they hide in the shadows to avoid being blamed for the rage they have so earnestly and continuously sought to build up in their “conservative” base.

    Then when the decisions are made, they attack everyone who had the courage to actually do the work of GOVERNING,…

    and whine about how they were left out of the process,…

    essentially repeating the refrain of “Bart Simpson,” when he might have gotten himself in trouble: “I didn’t do it,”…

    when in reality it was they, themselves, that went and hid in the shadows while the work was being done.

    It’s as if, after “The Little Red Hen,” finished making bread without help from anyone else,…

    our “conservative” friends attacked her for how she planted the wheat, how she harvested the wheat, how she ground the grain into flour, how she made the dough, and how she baked the bread,…

    even while they, themselves, were very busy eating the bread she made,…

    and complaining that the bread should never actually have been made.

  5. Submitted by joe smith on 10/28/2015 - 05:54 pm.

    “The Little Red Hen” got so overwhelmed by regulations she stopped making bread! Are you actually trying to say conservatives are anti-business?? The GOP is trying to get Govt off the small businessman’s back so he can prosper and hire workers. There was never a budget passed with Harry Reid as Senate leader even when they owned both houses and White House, how is that regular order and how is that the GOP’s fault? Wow, talk about changing history!

  6. Submitted by John Appelen on 10/28/2015 - 09:30 pm.

    Really… ” tell their constituents, “this needed to be done,””

    You mean we could not have passed a flat budget? Or we could not have tightened our belt and lived within the current debt limit? As if it was some kind of physical impossibility?

    I think the phrase should say… ” tell their constituents, “this is what the Moderates and Liberals wanted to be done,”” Because that is what happened, the Liberals would have held their spending ground and tried to blame the GOP for the shutdown like usual. Boehner is fighting the war not the battle, thank heavens. Hopefully his sacrifice will lead to more GOP votes next year.

    We are in between recessions and still running Deficits and increasing the National Debt… This is not a good thing…

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