By tomorrow, Americans may know who really calls the shots for House Republicans in Congress — their selected leaders or the Koch brothers.
The House may vote Thursday on bipartisan budget legislation crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Wisconsin. If the deal is approved, it would mean a truce in the debilitating budget wars between Democrats and Republicans. The impasse has kept them from seeing eye to eye on almost any subject for the last two years.
This new agreement isn't perfect. For one thing, it doesn't include an extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed, which is essential to keeping the economy on the right track. But as President Obama noted, not getting everything you want is "the nature of compromise." Ryan and Murray deserve the nation's gratitude for stepping out of their partisan roles to reach an agreement.
It may not stand up in the House, however, where nervous Republicans have been warned by tea-party groups and fiscal conservatives like the billionaire Koch brothers that a vote for the pact would amount to a political kiss of death. "We will hold members accountable, Republican and Democrat, if they go forward and vote to raise spending above sequester levels," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity.
The Ryan-Murray deal would block many of the automatic spending cuts collectively known as sequestration and instead allow the federal budget to grow by about $1 billion next year and in 2015. Potentially devastating cuts in the defense budget and some domestic programs would be avoided. But the deal also includes savings in pension and other programs that would ultimately reduce the federal deficit by about $22 billion over 10 years.
This is about as good a deal as can be expected at this time. It's gut-check time for House members. If they can take their focus off of election politics for a moment, they will vote for the deal. So should the Senate. And if the legislation passes, maybe Congress will find it easier to reach agreement on other important issues, like immigration reform, that don't deserve to keep falling victim to partisan politics.