What's in the Emerging Senate Deal?

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 15 2013 8:21 AM

What's in the Emerging Senate Deal?

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The morning sun begins to rise behind the U.S. Capitol, Oct. 15, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Today is Tuesday. Supposedly national default day is Thursday. The good news is we seem to have a bipartisan deal in the Senate that would avoid default. The bad news is that deal hasn't passed the Senate yet, much less the House. And the terms of the deal don't even seem to be set in stone. But here's what's in it:

1. The government is reopened, at the level of discretionary spending Republicans wanted: But the funding only extends through January 15. January 15, not coincidentally, is also the date on which the next round of sequestration is scheduled to occur. Democrats appear to think that between then and now there's some chance they can work out a deal to restore some lost funding to some of their favorite programs, perhaps by teaming up with Republican hawks to boost military spending.

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2. The debt ceiling is suspended until February 7: That is not so far off in the future. I've been hoping Congress would do the country a favor and reach a deal to scrap the debt ceiling once and for all, but looking on the bright side, this hypothetical January 15 deal could also include the debt ceiling.

3. Increased anti-fraud monitoring and penalties for the ACA: Republicans have gotten the media to refer to this as "income verification" in Obamacare as if the existing framework for allocating subsidies doesn't include any. It does. But Republicans want more, just as they typically want the IRS to devote more resources to smoking out EITC paperwork errors and fewer resources to ferreting out rich people's tax fraud.

4. One-year delay of the reinsurance fee: See here. Out of context you could think of this as fiscal stimulus, but obviously interest groups who manage to secure a one-year delay in taxes they don't like sometimes have a curious way of securing more and more delays.

At any rate, one obvious issue with this deal is that it doesn't come anywhere close to achieving the grandiose objectives of the conservative members who landed us in this mess. This deal will fly if and only if John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and their team are willing to split the party and overrule the most conservative members of their caucus. A decision to do that two or three weeks ago could have spared us this whole drama, but it wasn't made and it might not be made this week either. Even so, we may well just end up having this whole fight over again in the New Year.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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