Back in the spring, we talked about the looming possibility of a pre-election government shutdown. As of this afternoon, the threat appears to have been largely resolved.
To briefly recap, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal last summer on spending levels for the upcoming year, which seemingly cleared the way for a smooth budget process. In April, however, House Republicans said they no longer liked the agreement they'd already accepted, and demanded even deeper spending cuts. Without an agreement, we'd see a shutdown in September -- just two months before the national elections.
So, what happened? Today, leading policymakers agreed to simply leave levels where they are for a while.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Tuesday an agreement to avoid a government shutdown shortly before the November election. Reid said President Obama has also agreed to the deal. [...]
The continuing resolution will extend government funding for six months after it runs out Oct. 1.
The government will be funded at $1.047 trillion, the top-line spending level for 2012.
While 2012 spending was set at $1.043 trillion under the August 2011 Budget Control Act, the actual rate is expected to be closer to $1.047 trillion. That also is the number set for 2013 spending.
Did Boehner & Co. blink? Pretty much. In April, Republican leaders, especially in the House, said the spending levels agreed to last year were no longer acceptable. Today, those same levels turned out to be adequate after all.
The stopgap agreement may yet fall apart. The leadership offices acknowledged the package would be written during the August recess, and would have to be passed by both chambers shortly before the September deadline.
In all likelihood, it will pass, but it's not yet a sure thing.
Rank-and-file House Republicans hoped to use the shutdown threat as leverage to force deeper cuts, and it's unclear whether they're willing to follow their leadership's lead. The dynamic to remember has nothing to do with Democrats' spine and everything to do with GOP leaders not wanting to be on the hook for a shutdown two months before Election Day -- a shutdown that would surely put the House Republican majority in even greater jeopardy.
With that in mind, the 112th Congress, facing its fourth shutdown threat, will probably avoid falling over the cliff once more. Of course, it's hard to cheer too loudly when elected officials figure out a way to keep the government's lights on for another six months, but I suppose this is good news -- or at least what passes for good news in the worst Congress ever.