A good first step, and now we wait

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Color us surprised after reading that U.S. House and Senate budget negotiators have reached agreement on a plan that could avoid another government shutdown a month from now.

The group, led by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, came to a deal that would raise spending on the military and some domestic programs targeted for sequester reductions while achieving savings elsewhere in the federal budget, in part by keeping in place a 2-percent cut to Medicare health-care providers and by requiring federal workers to pay more toward their pensions.

The agreement drew praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Said President Obama, “This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like, and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of shortsighted, crisis-driven decision making to get this done.”

House Speaker John Boehner said, “While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings.”

Of course, not everyone was pleased, especially Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is running for his life for re-election in Kentucky, the tea party cabal in the House and the other usual suspects, including the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers.

The New York Times noted those who support the compromise hope it will afford some breathing room to allow for further talks on reforms to so-called entitlement programs and changes to the tax code.

But, first things first. We’ll have to wait and see whether the entire House and Senate can follow up on the work of the budget negotiators and actually approve what they have sketched out. And as we well know, these folks are experts when it comes to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

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