Director’s Desk

Kenneth Gold | September 28, 2015

It’s hard not to think that yesterday’s dugout fight between Washington Nationals Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper isn’t somehow a reflection of what’s going on only a few blocks away on Capitol Hill; and manager Matt Williams will likely soon be joining Speaker Boehner on a Florida golf course.

The Speaker’s resignation appears to have delayed, but in no way mitigate what will be an even heavier lift in mid-December, when we may face both a government shutdown and a default on the national debt. Although it now appears that congressional Republicans will agree to a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that will reportedly fund the government through December 11, what happens beyond that remains highly uncertain.

In addition to policy differences such as the recent flare-up over funding Planned Parenthood, in mid-December Congress will also need to deal with a host of expiring tax provisions, as well as needing to raise the debt ceiling, issues that will be even more politicized with four Senate Republicans running for President.  These issues not only divide the parties, but will continue to divide the Republican majority in Congress as well.

There is still no sign of progress on reaching agreement on raising the sequester-level spending caps that are at the heart of Congress’s failure to pass a single FY16 appropriations bill.  Democrats continue to support raising both defense and non-defense discretionary spending above the 2011 Budget Control Act levels. Republicans are divided into at least three camps; defense hawks who want to raise only defense spending; budget hawks who want to keep spending below the caps; and “moderates”, who agree with Democrats that the caps ought to be discarded.

Negotiating a December spending deal with the President and Senate Majority Leader McConnell may be the lesser of the new Speaker’s challenges, compared with brokering an agreement with Republican colleagues in his own chamber. Compared to the next Speaker’s job, the next Nationals manager’s job will be a walk in the park.

Ken Gold is director of the Government Affairs Institute

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