A tough, bipartisan win

“For too long, we’ve rewarded the screamers,” Sen. Patty Murray told The Herald. It’s the screamers who foster cynicism and diminish public life. For the past few years, they’ve defined the first branch of government.

A respite from the clatter and two years of budget semi-certainty (everything is relative in the age of gridlock) are in the public interest. The Murray-Ryan budget deal is cringe inducing for partisans on both sides, but it trumps inaction. Absent a deal, Congress would pinball from crisis to crisis; the center — such as it is — cannot hold.

The agreement zeroes out $63 billion in military and domestic spending cuts over two years. The partial rollback of sequestration means programs such as Head Start and critical medical research will be spared the ax (Good news for Snohomish County, which saw the shuttering of a North Everett Head Start program earlier this year.). Domestic and military spending would tick up from $967 billion for the current fiscal year to $1.012 trillion. The package trims the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

Who takes a hit? Federal workers will need to contribute more to their pensions, saving $6 billion, and military pensions will reflect a slower cost-of-living adjustment. Long-term unemployment benefits will expire at the end of the month, a Christmastime blow to 25,000 Washingtonians. Republicans wouldn’t budge on taxes; Democrats on entitlements.

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” Murray said. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

Member by member, hidebound Republicans and liberal Democrats from all ten Congressional districts in the state voted yea, with all the relevant qualifiers.

“If Congress passes this budget and then follows through with spending bills by the middle of January, we will avoid the threat of more government shutdowns and fiscal cliffs,” Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said. “Breaking this cycle of shutdown politics will give Congress time to debate other issues that have been put on the backburner.”

Murray shepherded the deal, took her lumps for advancing an imperfect package, and exhibited political courage. She did the right thing, not the popular thing, as did Republican Rep. Paul Ryan. It’s emblematic of leadership.

Murray-Ryan is the worst form of a budget deal except all the others. A grand stopgap, not a grand bargain. But Murray squelched the screamers and revived bipartisan lawmaking. Now, at last, a time to govern.

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