Even if Congress reaches a last-minute or deadline-busting deal to avert a federal default and fully reopen the government, elected officials are likely to return to their grinding brand of brinkmanship — perhaps repeatedly.
House-Senate talks are barely touching the underlying causes of debt-and-spending stalemates that pushed the United States close to economic crises in 2011, last December and again this month.
Late on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives dropped efforts to craft a Bill to raise the debt limit and fully open the government. House members will wait for the Democratic-controlled Senate to act, which could push a final resolution past Thursday. That’s when administration officials say federal borrowing powers will be tapped out.
Still, many in Congress expect a resolution, even if it’s a few days late. At best, however, lawmakers and the White House will agree to fund the government and raise the debt limit for only a few months. They also will call for yet another bipartisan effort to address the federal debt’s major causes, including restricted revenue growth and entitlement benefits that rise automatically.
And yet, top advocates say they’ve seen virtually no change in the political dynamics that have stymied past efforts for a compromise to end the cycle of brinksmanship and threats to harm the economy.
Republicans still adamantly oppose tax increases. Powerful interest groups and many Democrats still fiercely oppose cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits that provide monthly retirement payments and healthcare coverage to the elderly. And congressional rules still tempt lawmakers to threaten economic havoc — by sending the nation into default — if the opposing party doesn’t yield to their demands.
“We’re probably going to have to go through this a few more times,” said Bob Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, which advocates budget reforms. Even if a compromise plan this month wins approval, Bixby said, it will leave fundamental problems that “they haven’t done anything to address”.