The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 13, 2013

Congress makes Progress

Why it matters: The Christmas spirit seems to have taken hold in Congress as Democrats and Republicans agree to a sensible budget deal to avert further shutdowns.

Maybe we’re all just too optimistic this time of year, but it seems Congress has made some real progress rebutting various grinches and latching on to the wonder of the season or, if not wonder, at least a short-term budget deal.

House Republican and Senate Democrat leaders announced the agreement on a short-term budget deal Wednesday that seemed to breed more humility than acrimony. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., noted the deal did not give either side everything it wanted. Republicans wanted steeper spending cuts and Democrats wanted an extension of unemployment benefits.

The deal provided some overall debt reduction and kept some 90 percent of the sequester spending cuts in place. It removed $63 billion in sequester cuts over two years that were beginning to affect everything from national defense to children’s education programs. Ryan struck the deal with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

Ryan told the House Rules Committee “It shows that we can work together,” according to report in the Associated Press. Democrat Rep. Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland, said in the same report: “On balance, my view is this is a step forward. A small one, but a step forward.”

House and Senate leadership also praised the deal and suggested chances are good for positive votes in both Houses. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called the deal a “breath of fresh air.” He suggested it would lead to further progress on a number of issues between House Republicans and Senate Democrats.

House Speaker John Boehner noted that the plan still reduces the deficit and he took aim at outside groups (grinches) who were opposing the deal and causing other acrimony in the House. “They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous,” he told the Associated Press. And the people in Whoville certainly know that.

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