After all the calculated posturing and speech-making had been made, the Senate today finally approved a bipartisan budget agreement. Americans can only hope the deal signals a shift from the animosity in Congress rooted in the tea-party movement's domination of the Republican Party.
The House overwhelmingly voted for the budget agreement, 332 to 94, a week ago. The Senate followed suit today by a 64 to 36 margin. That welcome result was signaled Monday when 12 Republicans joined 55 Democrats to exceed the 60-vote procedural threshold needed to allow the bill to be approved by a simple majority.
The budget pact avoids scheduled sequester cuts in defense and domestic spending over the next two years by making up those funds through other cuts spread out over 10 years. Sen. Marco Rubio said Congress can't be trusted to make the promised cuts later. But the Florida Republican's opposition appeared to be more of his tacking right in preparation for a presidential campaign.
Some Republicans and Democrats criticized the deal for trimming future cost-of-living pension increases for military retirees younger than 62. But Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) noted that some of the same senators criticizing that provision had praised the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which suggested ending COLAS for all military retirees.
In the end, bipartisanship won. But how long will the victory last? Ryan warned that Republicans may block another debt-ceiling hike in February unless more spending is cut. Another government shutdown could occur if that happens. After all, President Obama has vowed never again to negotiate when the nation's borrowing power needs to be increased. But Republicans may be less likely to dig in their heels. They still feel the sting of the public's disgust for causing the last shutdown. That's why they backed off and let this budget pass.