Looks Like We Have a Deal

After a few weeks of government shutdown and a nerve-wracking lead-up to hitting the debt ceiling, the Senate leadership announced today it had come to an agreement to resolve the current crisis. Under this deal the government would be funded through January 15 at the FY 2013 level of $986 billion and the debt ceiling would be suspended through February 7 (though extraordinary measures would extend the default date past then). The leaders have also agreed to set up a budget conference committee that would be instructed to report recommendations by December 13. The agreement still needs to be passed by both the Senate and House, although Speaker Boehner has indicated he will bring it to the floor and urge Republicans to vote for it.

While there had been speculation about what other policies would be thrown in to the deal, particularly those related to the Affordable Act, reports suggests only one made it into the final deal. The agreement would require income verification for the Affordable Care Act subsidies in state-run exchanges starting in 2014, after the Administration delayed this verification until 2015 this summer. 

In response to the announced agreement, Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and head of the Campaign to Fix the Debt issued the following statement:

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is relieved that leaders in the Senate have agreed to a plan to re-open the government and avoid a dangerous default. We encourage Congress to pass and the President to sign this plan, and immediately turn their attention to the critical issue of how to put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path.

It is incredibly disheartening that we are once again relying on last-minute deals that merely delay the real issues instead of addressing them. Playing with default was an incredibly dangerous game, but continuing to delay confronting our debt is letting a fire burn that could get out of control at any moment. We have to be able to expect more from our leaders – we cannot continue to lurch from one crisis to the next. If we do not change course, we will be dealing with these same issues all over again in only a few months’ time.

This agreement provides for a process, through the appointment of budget conferees, to deal with the fact that the country is operating without a budget. Congress and the President must use this opportunity to put in place the long - overdue changes of making our entitlement programs more sustainable, reforming our tax code, replacing sequestration with smarter reforms, and putting the debt on a sustainable downward path.

Both houses should act quickly to stop the madness, start bipartisan discussions, and solve our debt problems once and for all.