There are two ominous kickers in the deal brokered that ended the GOP manufactured government debt ceiling and partial government shutdown crisis. One is the tight time frames agreed to that would keep the government open until Jan. 15 and the time frame limit extending the debt ceiling to Feb. 7. The GOP wanted an even tighter time line of six weeks which on the surface was beyond absurd since it would have done nothing to ease foreign and domestic jitters over a default. It would have given just enough time for the GOP to come right back again and gum up the works with the same demands to meat ax cut programs and to take yet another shot at the Affordable Care Act.
The added weeks, though, was the best that the Obama Administration could get and it had little choice but to accept and even hail it as a victory of sorts if for no other reason than it at least put people back to work, restored services, and brought some momentary relief to investors. There's still no guarantee that the GOP won't use the same congressional hostage-taking antic again on the Affordable Care Act and demand the draconian budget cuts in January or February as its price for keeping the government open or raising the debt ceiling. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even managed to insert into the deal the provision that allows Congress to disapprove of the debt-ceiling increase presumably after the Feb. 7 deadline. And congressional shutdown ringleader Texas Senator Ted Cruz is already blustering about a second shutdown if Congress can't agree on a final budget deal come January.The likelihood is this is all hot air from the GOP for the simple fact it doesn't really have to do a repeat performance.
The reason is the second ominous kicker in the deal. It wrung an agreement a year ago out of President Obama to cut billions from the budget to get a budget bill enacted. The cuts remain in full force as a part of the deal. House Republicans have shown no sign that they will relent one inch from pressing hard on the small telephone book list of program spending cuts or outright elimination they have peddled for the past two years. This time around they may actually be able to put an official bipartisan stamp to it. The deal includes a provision that House and Senate leaders will name negotiators from their ranks to iron out budget issues in December. A major player almost certainly will be Paul Ryan who played his hand well during the shutdown by keeping a low profile and only emerging at a crucial moment to remind one and all that his well-worn plan for reining in government, which means not only deep but sustained cuts over years is still the best bet for Democrats to avoid more GOP trouble. The Ryan plan seemed almost moderate to many who remember that last July a gaggle of the most rabid House Republicans voted down a handful of spending proposals most notably on a transportation and housing appropriations bill that cut spending on programs in these areas. They claimed that even the reduced spending was still too high. This triggered a rarity, Republican infighting, in which one faction accused the other of "unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts."
A big problem is that the framework of the Faustian bargain that President Obama was dragooned into making in past budget battles is still firmly in place. He offered to cut community service block grants which fund an array of community education, health and social service programs in poor, underserved, largely inner-city neighborhoods, cut programs in science, technology, youth mentoring programs, and employment and training assistance, and even tweak the GOP's prime slash-and-burn targets, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would be stretched out over a decade, and there will be no major structural reforms in the program which is what the GOP demands and which is wildly at odds with the majority of Americans, especially those who are dependent for their health coverage on the programs. But Obama still put the Medicare restructure proposals on the budget table and they remain there.
The doomsday scenario that the GOP foisted on the nation during the shutdown fiasco was pure political hyperbole that was given a veneer of credibility by the shrewd coupling with the debt ceiling raise. This enabled the GOP to hide behind the mounting fears and warnings of Wall Street and the major foreign holders of U.S. debt of a federal debt default. This was enough to close the 11th hour deal. However, it also put in place the disastrous precedent that if the draconian budget cuts the GOP demands aren't made then they can do a rerun in whole or part of the manufactured crisis at some not so distant future point to get their way. That's the devilment in the details in the government crisis ending deal.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.