'Breathing room' in Congress? Don't hold your breath

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks at a press conference announcing a bipartisan budget deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) looks on at the U.S. Capitol on December 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. The $85 billion agreement would set new spending levels for the next two years and create $63 billion in so-called 'sequester relief.'

As a bipartisan budget compromise the House of Representatives passed last week works its way through the Senate, there are hopes the deal, which sets a funding level for the government through October 2015, could give lawmakers breathing room  to work on a bigger deal.

At a news conference last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said the deal demonstrated lawmakers could work together “to get our government functioning at its very basic levels.”

So should we cue up a Congressional chorus?

“I would not take this deal to mean there is a sudden outbreak of ‘Kumbaya’ between Democrats and Republicans on the Hill,” says Mark Peterson, a professor of public policy and political science at UCLA. He says deep divisions didn’t disappear, and there is a lot left to do.

There is no new farm bill, and on the agenda are immigration and tax reform, says James Thurber, a government professor at American University.

“They’ve done nothing really about the debt ceiling or debt or deficit,” Thurber says. 

But before lawmakers can tackle any of that, they actually have to budget. This deal is only a framework.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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