In bringing the bipartisan compromise budget agreement to a vote and passage, Republicans and Democrats put the government on autopilot for a year freeing members of Congress to campaign for reelection without distraction. If one thought anything useful might have been accomplished by Congress before the 2016 election, it might be disappointing. However, that was never likely. Agreement on the compromise was possible because the agreement served the interests of both parties.
As for the public interest, that may have been served accidentally–the government is funded as most wished. If no useful legislation will be enacted next year, it is also unlikely that any harmful legislation will be.
Surprisingly, the GOP gained little, so that a majority of Republicans voted against the agreement. Once the leadership decided to allow the budget to pass with Democratic Party votes, it was no longer necessary or possible to please more than a handful of Republicans. With this agreement, the GOP gave up on the sequester and the determination to hold down economic growth with spending cuts. This should allow the economy to improve further next year. Since the economy has improved steadily during the Obama years in spite of GOP efforts to prevent it, GOP leaders evidently decided to encourage further growth and later claim credit for it.
Speaker Paul Ryan’s promise not to allow immigration reform to come to the floor is interesting. It probably reflects the fact that no reform bill which could pass the House under the Hastert rule would likely pass the Senate and be signed into law. Ryan’s suggestion that he would advance such a bill after the 2016 election suggests supreme confidence that the GOP candidate, whomever it might be, will prevail. If Hillary Clinton is elected, one wonders how the GOP will react to that. Here are two possibilities:
- Continue to stall as they have done during the Obama Administration hoping that someday their luck will turn.
- Purge the far right, abandon the Hastert rule, cooperate with Democrats and hope the voters approve.
Perhaps there are other possibilities; stay tuned.