Debt-ceiling drama just a preview of December?
The debt-ceiling deal passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama Tuesday requires another $1.2 trillion in cuts by December. Compromise might not be any easier then.
In the final moments before the Senate was to vote on the debt-ceiling deal that would rescue the US from its first-ever default, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky appeared buoyant. In a speech, he handed out plaudits like bouquets – to the eventual spirit of compromise, to the tea party, and to the deal itself.Skip to next paragraph
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Then his Democratic opposite took the floor, his face grim. While this deal did not include any new taxes on the rich, there was no chance that the wealthy would get off so easily in the next round of deficit cuts later this year, said Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada. "That's not going to happen."
With those words, Senator McConnell's head dropped, and Congress's next great battle was enjoined before the first was even finished.
On Tuesday, the Senate did deliver a big, bipartisan vote to raise the national debt limit, cut more than $2.4 trillion in spending, and avoid default.
But Tuesday’s vote doesn’t end the debate over the size and scope of government. If anything, the stakes for politicians, American families, and Washington’s vast lobby community are even higher for the next stage of deficit reduction launched by this new law.
The shape of the compromises
Resolving the current debt crisis required that the White House give up its call for a “clean” debt-limit increase without conditions, the norm for every other US president. It required Democrats to give up demands for a “balanced” approach to debt reduction that included tax increases for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. And Republicans had to yield on their pledge that Congress first pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution before voting to raise the debt limit.
But Republicans won decisively on the new principle that was first proposed by House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio: spending cuts must be greater than the requested debt hike and tax hikes remain off the table.
“Never again will any president from either party be allowed to raise the debt ceiling without being held accountable for it by the American people,” said McConnell just before Tuesday’s floor vote.