The week has ended with no movement towards ending the government shutdown. While Congress will be in session over the weekend, no breakthrough is expected then either. Meanwhile, the statutory debt ceiling is just around the corner.
There is no clear way out as of now as lawmakers hunt for an elusive solution. However, there is increasing talk that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wants to pursue a broad deal to end the shutdown and increase the debt limit. While this latest iteration of the “grand bargain” is not as ambitious as previous versions, it moves in the right direction by addressing the true drivers of the long-term debt, including tax and entitlement reforms.
It is promising that the discussion appears to be moving away from policies unrelated to the central funding of the government, as we criticized, and is turning toward addressing the underlying fiscal challenges facing the country. There are plenty of ideas for a debt deal.
The shutdown needs to end and the debt ceiling must be raised as quickly as possible. But if we do nothing to address the fundamental budget problems, we will simply find our way back in the same situation again sooner rather than later.
Instead of engaging in dangerous and self-destructive political brinksmanship, our elected leaders should use this moment as an opportunity take steps to improve our fiscal condition. We urge lawmakers to stop focusing on issues unrelated to bringing down our dangerously high debt levels and instead pursue a fiscally responsible agenda that avoids default and puts in place a plan to bring down the debt as a share of the economy. This is the truly responsible course of action.
We have been down this road before, facing fiscal deadlines with prospects for a grand bargain, only to see a big budget deal fail in the end as policymakers settled for short-term agreements that only kicked the can down the road.
Will this time be different? Only if policymakers finally tire of temporary patches and gimmicks that do little or nothing to solve our long-term fiscal challenges and reject the partisanship that has blocked previous efforts and work together in the nation’s interest.