Yesterday's Senate leadership deal will keep the government's lights on, for now. It appears that the House leadership has accepted the deal and will extend funding for the next six weeks, until Nov. 18. And then it gets interesting all over again.
Suzy Khimm has a depressing preview of the next fight, and explains while it will probably be a lot worse than this penny-ante skirmish. Her key point: The negotiations will be about the entire 2012 budget.
Party leaders say they’ll continue to abide by the overall $1.043 trillion funding limit under the debt-ceiling deal, which requires $21 billion in spending cuts for 2012. But neither party is pushing for across-the-board cuts again to reach that target. Instead, legislators want to cut more money from some places than others. And that could spark many turf battles over spending priorities.
3) Both parties have already drawn battle lines on funding priorities: In the meantime, both parties have begun laying out their goals for the 2012 budget, some of which have already sparked partisan attacks. For example, the House GOP’s appropriations bill would cut a food assistance program for low-income women and children by $833 million below FY2011 levels, providing $5.9 billion total, and would cut federal highway funding to $27 billion — $11.7 billion below the FY2011 level. Democratic aides have slammed such GOP proposals, calling the cuts “class warfare.” And that’s just a tiny portion of the budget that will be under negotiation.
4) There could be big fights over policy riders: This is what tripped up the budget negotiations the last time around. Back in April, Republicans pushed to restrict funding for Planned Parenthood and abortion in the District of Columbia through “riders” that placed conditions on the money. Congress could deadlock over riders again, but it’s not just abortion that could be at issue.
And finally, there's the Catfood Commission II, also scheduled to release its deficit cutting plan for the next decade at the same time, also to be voted on by the entire Congress. The interplay between the 2012 budget, due Nov. 18, and the committee's deficit plan, due Nov. 23, will complicated budget decisions, particularly as Republicans fight to protect defense spending. There's also the ongoing little issue of FEMA, which is slated to get $2.65 billion in funding in this extension, but is going to need a minimum of $4.6 billion and as much as $7 billion to deal with current disasters and pick up the projects that it has had to mothball to get through this crisis.
There seems to be some hope among Democrats, spoken here by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, that this kerfuffle will show the House Republicans that there isn't stomach in the Senate for the nihilistic brinksmanship, and that a future shutdown fight is thus made more unlikely. Counting on House Republicans to view the situation rationally, or thinking that maybe Boehner has the ability to control his caucus, seems a fools errand. Enjoy the reprieve, because chances are will be right back to the brink in six weeks.