by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
With the divisiveness of tax reform now hidden behind the closed doors of a conference committee, Congress has returned to the only thing that restores bipartisanship on Capitol Hill: spending money.
After pushing the deadline off for another two weeks, Congress must now act by December 23 in order to avoid the by-now-routine threat of a partial government shutdown. That means we should expect the usual threats and predictions of disaster, all just in time for the holidays. Current reporting suggests that Congress is likely to gather the courage to extend the deadline all the way to mid-January, just in time for us to go through it all a second time. The ongoing kabuki theater would have long since become a bore if it were not so likely that taxpayers are about to once again pay the price.
Most of the public fighting will be over non-budgetary issues, including Democratic demands that some sort of protection for undocumented “DREAMers” be included in a continuing resolution. But behind the scenes, there is far more agreement. The big question will be how much to exceed the all-but-moribund sequester caps on domestic and defense spending. Republican are demanding an increase in military spending of roughly $54 billion above the sequester cap. Democrats appear more than willing to go along, if they receive a comparable increase in domestic spending.