Congress will soon be forced to debate yet another short-term, stopgap bill to keep the government open, not because a budget deal can't be reached, but because lawmakers haven't left enough time to reach one.The stop-gap funding bill that ended the Republican shutdown in October expires on January 15, 2014 and unless Congress passes a budget by mid-December, the only practical way to avoid another shutdown will be to pass yet another short-term continuing resolution that will extend current funding levels.
The House and Senate have already left town for Thanksgiving. And once they return, both chambers are in session concurrently for just four days—Dec. 10 through Dec. 13—before Congress adjourns again for the holiday recess.
Simply put, there won't be enough time for budget negotiators to solidify the details of an agreement that sets spending levels for the rest of fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015 – much less sell it to their respective caucuses – before a Dec. 13 deadline.
Assuming that happens, austerity-minded Republicans will want to leave the sequester in place, and unless Democrats and the handful of anti-sequester Republicans make the case for simply repealing the sequester (as opposed to trying to find offsetting revenue increases or spending cuts), they won't be in a strong position to stop the sequester from continuing to harm.
Meanwhile, even as Congress lumbers its way into another fiscal mess, they are eagerly preparing for a nice long vacation, though I don't think the National Journal gets it quite right when they blame the vacation for the Congressional stalemate. Instead, it seems like what's going on is that Congress is choosing to dive headlong into another crisis and would rather take some time off rather than pretend to be working on a deal that they already know they won't reach.