|Posted on October 19, 2013 at 2:50 PM|
Image courtesy of CNN.
The result of the latest debt ceiling deal and government shutdown was not the cathartic release of years of budget disagreements, political stagnation, and gridlock many had hoped for. Rather, it was more of an anticlimactic, fizzling deus ex machina after a month-long dramatic crescendo. The deal which came out of the standoff is like a cacophonic symphony that ended with one flute playing a note that does not quite resolve. Thus far, the coda to our shutdown symphony has been mere echoes of the same dissonant melodies as politicians just repeat the same fallacious talking points they had before the deal, as if nothing changed.
That is probably because very little has changed as a result of this deal. The so-called shutdown in which only 17% of spending was cut is over so now people can go visit museums in Washington DC again when the President signed the deal Wednesday night. It extends the debt ceiling until February 7, funds the government until January 15; no spending cuts, no moves on ObamaCare, no tax hikes, and virtually no significant policy changes.
The only real effective results of the debt ceiling are merely parliamentary changes which effectively kick the barrel of massive budget negotiations down the road. It requires the establishment of a budget committee to resolve a replacement for sequestration by 2017 and institutes a measure known as the “McConnell Mechanism.” Ezra Klein of the Washington Post explains:
McConnell's idea was to restructure the question so most legislators could vote "no" and the president would be the one to take all the blame. It's not the most profile-in-courage solution one could imagine, but given the circumstances, it's actually kind of genius.
The way it works is that the president gets the power to raise the debt ceiling and then Congress gets an opportunity to take a vote of "disapproval." If that vote passes Congress, then the president can veto the disapproval rule. If Congress can muster the two-thirds majority to overturn the veto, then the president's debt-ceiling increase is rejected.
In other words, the debt ceiling vote goes from a vote where a majority of Congress needs to vote in favor of it to a vote where up to two-thirds of Congress can vote against it.
The result is that, for February, there is effectively no debt ceiling. Politically, it makes sense for both parties as they do not want another contentious deal that threatens investor stability so close to the midterm elections. Additionally, neither party wants to raise the debt ceiling, however they know they must and overwhelmingly vote for it every time; this forces them to raise it while allowing for the façade that they are fighting it. However, since it expires in February, it changes nothing in the long-term.
The true problem with the bill is that it did not accomplish the alleged ends which these type of contentious stand-offs are intended to resolve. For the Tea Party and other fiscal austerians, the point of pushing a debt ceiling bill is to try and push austerity that otherwise would not be accepted by pro-government factions. However, because the Tea Party made the unfortunate and foolish decision to have the narrative revolve around solely ObamaCare and refused to make any compromise, the result was absolutely no change in policies that the Tea Party sought, and that the country needs. To this end, the Tea Party (led by the politically immature likes of Ted Cruz) miserably failed.
Helderlman, Rosalind S. and Lori Montgomery. "Obama signs bill to raise debt limit, reopen government." Washington Post.com. Washington Post: 17 October 2013. Web. 19 October 2013. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/house-effort-to-end-fiscal-crisis-collapses-leaving-senate-to-forge-last-minute-solution/2013/10/16/1e8bb150-364d-11e3-be86-6aeaa439845b_story.html>
Klein, Ezra. “No, we didn’t get rid of the debt ceiling forever.” WashingtonPost.com. Washington Post: 17 October 2013. Web. 19 October 2013. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/17/no-we-didnt-get-rid-of-the-debt-ceiling-forever/>