The public says it wants Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work together — now they have.
The two-year federal budget agreement approved last week by the Congress left both Democrats and Republicans less than enthusiastic, but it nonetheless reflects the division of power in Washington.
Democrats are disappointed that the agreement doesn't authorize more federal spending while Republicans believe it will result in too much. But only the hard-core on each side of the aisle voted against the proposal. A substantial House majority — 332-94 — reluctantly passed the deal and sent it on for expected approval in the U.S. Senate.
Such is the nature of politics when neither party has the authority to act as it pleases. Because Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House, compromise is unavoidable if agreement is to be reached on a federal budget.
Otherwise, the budget process can break down in the form of the partial government shutdown like the one earlier this year in which Republicans tried, but lacked the power, to force their will on recalcitrant Democrats.
The budget plan, which was negotiated by Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, authorizes two years of spending — $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015. More importantly, it sets aside the sequester spending restrictions that President Barack Obama first proposed and later came to regret.
Critics claimed mandated sequester cuts took too much out of a variety of social welfare and defense spending programs. The new agreement restores $85 billion in proposed spending over the next two years.
As is often the case in bipartisan spending deals, it increases spending now while promising reductions years down the road. Unfortunately, that's one reason this country has run up annual trillion dollar deficits in recent years, boosting the total national debt to in excess of $17 trillion.
At some point, the debt problem will be impossible to avoid, but members of Congress obviously believe the day of reckoning will be years down the road and are hoping that fate will intervene favorably between now and then.
It's fair to say, and many people already have, that Democrats got the better end of this bargain. The GOP took a public relations beating during the shutdown and had to give up more than it wanted to avoid another one. But that is the nature of the political process — give and take always depends on who controls the whip hand.