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Uncertainty over a potential default and a new budget aren’t enough to spur action on Capitol Hill.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Most youngsters are arriving in class prepared to write the obligatory essay detailing how they spent their vacations. But members of Congress still enjoying their five-week recess have so far managed no accomplishments to fill the blank page that will confront them upon their return next month.
The need for summertime remedial work was apparent, at least to their constituents. The nation will hit its debt limit in mid-October, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Monday.
A default would result in a lower credit rating and increased borrowing costs. Senior House leaders have acknowleged they have an obligation to pay bills they’ve already incurred, although it’s not clear that awareness is widespread at the U.S. Capitol.
Even if that matter is resolved without drama, the 2014 budget awaits action. Given that members return on Sept. 6, with the current budget set to expire at the end of the month, a short-term extension will be needed but not necessarily forthcoming. Without it, the federal government would begin to shut down for the first time since 1995-96.
Talks between the White House and Senate Republicans in search of a deficit reduction deal have failed to produce policy elixirs. The group last met on Aug. 1. A new session is scheduled for Thursday, but senators are divided on what the deal should look like, and there is no sign that the House GOP would sign on even if an agreement were reached.
The good news is that the federal budget deficit is shrinking on its own, but it won’t last as long as the economy remains slack, traumatized by last year’s fiscal cliff showdown and automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that represent a congressional cop out, a slipshod way to run any enterprise, much less a national government.
We second Rep. Reid Ribble, a Wisconsin Republican and member of the House Budget Committee, who recently told The New York Times, “I hope grown-ups get in a room and behave like grown-ups, not simply actors on a political stage.”
But so far the grown-ups have made themselves scarce on Capitol Hill, and autumn in Washington doesn’t seem so inviting.
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