Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and Kevin Yoder, like so many other members across the country, are grumbling about the short-term nature of this week’s deal that ended the government shutdown and temporarily lifted the debt limit.
“If punting for a few months is the definition of `responsibility,’ we are in real trouble,” Yoder, the 3rd District Kansas representative and a Republican, said this week.
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“I’m not pleased at all that we didn’t get a year-long deal at least,” Cleaver, the 5th District Missouri representative and a Democrat, said.
Under terms of the deal, the debt ceiling is raised until Feb. 7. The government reopens until Jan. 15.
But the reality is the House still cannot resolve at least two key issues that continue to divide it. And, yes, you’ve heard these before:
• Cleaver and other Democrats say tax increases must be on the table to responsibly deal with a runaway budget deficit. Yoder and other Republicans say no way, especially when the economy continues to struggle.
• Yoder and the Republicans want to trim massive entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. Most Democrats are resisting.
Cleaver insists that there are ways to cut those programs that don’t involve trimming current benefits, and he’s right. He said he’s willing to consider that.
But bottom line is the House is still stuck with the same seemingly intractable party positions that haven’t changed for months. The chamber truly is stuck in the mud.
All that has some insiders pointing to the prospect of a sweeping “grand bargain” that President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner flirted with a couple of years ago. Such a deal would resolve both of these broad sticking points — by raising taxes, at least a little, and cutting entitlements, at least somewhat, or at least that’s the theory.
“The only way to get out of this is to do a long-term budget deal,” Cleaver said Thursday.
Short of that, though, it’s going to be “here we go again” come January when the possibility of a government default will rise again.
Cleaver, meantime, is trying to work on legislation that would end debt ceilings altogether so that Congress can avoid future skirmishes on the issue. He said only two countries are “stupid enough” to have debt ceilings — the U.S. and Denmark.
The timing of the deal this week, by the way, was all about getting the country past the Christmas shopping season before the infighting intensifies again, Cleaver pointed out.