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Tuesday’s deal to take a government shutdown showdown off the table clears the September schedule for a month of pre-election maneuvering on the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and the budget sequester.
And it makes the final fight over both issues in the post-election lame-duck session a purer test of wills over whether either party can actually stomach tax increases and/or deep defense cuts in order to make their broader ideological points about the nation’s fiscal policy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced an agreement-in-principle to fund the government for six months beyond Sept. 30 at a Tuesday press conference. The Nevada Democrat signaled that he, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and President Barack Obama decided to make the agreement early to prevent either side from using government funding as a hostage going into the November elections and the lame-duck session.
“It will provide stability for the coming months. It will be free of riders,” Reid said in reference to troublesome policy provisions often attached to appropriations bills by one party or the other.
Reid did not comment specifically on the possibility of including supplemental disaster relief in response to the historic drought ravaging the Midwest if it has not been addressed before the continuing resolution comes to a vote in September. The House was moving Tuesday to take up a bill on disaster relief in the hopes of passing one this week.
In an ideal world, Reid would like to vote on the continuing resolution before the August recess that begins at the end of this week. But he acknowledged that such a feat would prove impossible. Aides say the Congressional Budget Office will need time to score the proposal. In addition, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will need to provide Appropriations Committee staffers with lists of changes from the current spending levels — called “anomalies” — for inclusion in the measure.
Boehner said in a statement that the timing of the agreement would meddle with the summer vacation plans of some Appropriations staffers.
“During the August district work period, committee members and their staff will write legislation that can be passed by the House and Senate in September and sent to President Obama to be signed into law,” Boehner said.
“This agreement reached between the Senate, the House and the White House provides stability for the coming months, when we will have to resolve critical issues that directly affect middle-class families,” Reid said in a statement.