Washington's latest fiscal crisis appeared to be coming to an end Tuesday morning as leaders of the two parties in the
Such brinkmanship has grown familiar over the last 2 1/2 years, and the outcome of the current episode long seemed preordained. By the time lawmakers started work in September on a stopgap spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, it was too late to negotiate any meaningful changes in policy. The only rational path was to maintain the budgetary status quo — which neither side likes — while lawmakers try again to reconcile their ideologically driven differences over spending, taxes and entitlements.
That's been the Democrats' position throughout. A group of roughly 50
By Tuesday, House Republicans were reduced to just trying to embarrass Senate Democrats with a petty tweak to the 2010 law. Their leaders circulated a proposal to reopen the government for two months and lift the debt limit until Feb. 7, but also to amend the Affordable Care Act to in effect cut the pay of lawmakers, their staffs and White House political appointees by eliminating the federal contribution to their insurance premiums. Now that's an important policy goal. The proposal also would have made it harder for the Treasury to keep paying the bills after Feb. 7. The tea party wing wasn't satisfied, however, demanding a more significant attack on Obamacare. The leadership eventually dropped the proposal, putting the onus back on Senate leaders to cut a deal.