WASHINGTON (AP) – There were no champagne corks popping at the White House after Congress passed a two-year budget deal, no declarations of a new era of cooperation in President Barack Obama’s second term.
Instead, the modest agreement that passed Wednesday served as a stark year-end reminder of how low expectations for Washington sank in 2013, particularly for a president who hoped his resounding re-election would clear the way for progress on immigration, the long-term debt and tax reform.
The president’s advisers say they’re still searching for the larger meaning in the bipartisan budget deal, if there is one at all. At best, it could provide an opening for making progress next year on Obama’s stalled legislative agenda. It also could be a political play by Republicans to keep the focus on the disastrous rollout of Obama’s health care law and avoid another partial government shutdown like the one in October that tanked the party’s approval ratings.
Or it could simply be an isolated move by lawmakers eager to head for the exits after a year that was perhaps even more dismal for Congress than for the president.
The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said administration officials were “not getting overexcited because we’re not naive about the obstruction that continues to exist and the partisanship that tends more often than not to paralyze Washington and Congress.”
Nine Republicans joined the Senate’s Democrats in passing the budget deal Wednesday and sending it to the White House for Obama’s signature. The GOP-led House approved the measure a week ago. The agreement is aimed at preventing another government shutdown for nearly two more years and eases the harshest effects of automatic budget cuts _ known as the sequester _ on the Pentagon and other domestic agencies. The pact was crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state.
Like the White House, Republicans were cautious in predicting whether Washington’s brush with regular order was a preview of things to come in 2014.
“I don’t know how to read into it in terms of what compromise opportunities lay ahead,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “What I think it does do is clear the deck of some potentially contentious issues and give everyone space to do the normal legislating and governing.”
Buck cited immigration reform and a farm bill as two potential avenues for cooperation next year. House Republicans will gather for a retreat next month to map out a strategy on those issues, as well as a game plan for the next fight over increasing the nation’s borrowing ability, which is supposed to hit its limit early next year.
It’s the shadow of the debt ceiling perhaps more than anything else that has both parties wary of celebrating their end-of-the-year budget compromise. A debt limit standoff between Republicans and the White House brought the country to the brink of a default in October, and both sides are lining up behind their same hard-line positions once again.
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, says Republicans will seek concessions from Democrats in order to raise the debt limit, declaring, “We don’t want nothing out of this.” But the White House continues to insist that Obama, buoyed by his success in forcing the GOP to bend this fall, will not negotiate over the borrowing limit.
“Unless there is massive amounts of self-delusion going on, the Republicans must know that the president is never going to pay ransom for paying America’s bills,” Dan Pfeiffer, Obama’s senior adviser, said.
If Washington can avert another down-to-the-wire debt ceiling fight, White House officials hope to revive a stalled immigration overhaul while also trying to chalk up smaller victories on housing reform and infrastructure spending. And Obama will take a stab at increasing the minimum wage, though his advisers acknowledge that proposal faces tougher opposition from the GOP.
As in past years, the White House will also be looking for areas where Obama can act on his own. One proposal includes getting commitments from private companies to hire Americans who have been unemployed for lengthy periods of time. Executive orders are also likely on climate change and the economy.
With just three years in office left for Obama, Pfeiffer said there’s a greater sense of urgency in the White House over making use of presidential powers if December’s “kumbaya” moment quickly fades.
“We can’t wait around,” he said.
Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at:
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Water tips to save money, help save the Earth
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon
- What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease in Arizona
- Spring clean your windows like a pro with these 8 tips
- 7 films that should have won best-picture Oscars
- New plumbing technology saves money and improves your home
- Survey shows Arizona CFOs optimistic about 2016
- How chronic pain can affect your love life
- 5 potential warning signs about your child's development