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Vol 2. No. 10: Did Biden Just Land a Good Deal?

 Member Newsletter
May 26, 2023 4:43 p.m.

I wrote the post below last night based on initial reports about a debt ceiling deal which appeared to be coming together. Everything we’ve heard since last night confirms these broad outlines. And the deal now seems closer to being finalized, more concrete and happening than it seemed last night. I added some follow up here and thoughts on the politics here.

Needless to say, there is no finalized deal. So all these assumptions must be tentative. But, based on these leaked outlines, this is a much better deal for Biden than I think most people thought possible. It was a big comedown on his part to agree to negotiate on the debt ceiling at all. That’s still important in itself. But the budget caps are only for two years and they’re based on 2023 and not 2022 numbers. They also lock in rules which prevent Republicans from coming back with a new set of demands this fall.

No deal was going to be “good.” That was baked in when Republicans took the House. But this is much better than I think anyone was expecting and it leaves House Republicans looking like they got a thin deal and face saving changes.

Dark Brandon, indeed.

Pretty Big News

Originally Published: May 26, 2023 12:16 a.m.

One thing that has had me very concerned over recent days is that the White House would be forced to take a rough deal with House Republicans and then also have to whip Democratic votes to get it passed. So the Freedom Caucus forces a ruinous deal and then doesn’t even vote for it. Democrats have to make up those votes. That’s not worth doing. Despite the danger, force McCarthy to pass it entirely with Republican votes. If he can’t get the votes for his own demands, let’s just go over the cliff.

But news out tonight from the Times, now also confirmed by the Post, points to the outlines of a deal that actually looks fairly good for the Dems.

Caveats: You’ll know there’s a deal when it’s official. Maybe this falls apart. Also, let’s remember that we shouldn’t be in this negotiation at all. But we are in the negotiation and we’re days from a crisis. Here are the outlines of a deal as I understand them from the Times article.

Defense and Veterans spending continues to rise at the level Biden outlined in his budget. No freeze there. Other spending (non-defense discretionary spending) gets frozen but at roughly 2023 levels rather than 2022 levels and for just two years. That difference may not sound like a big deal but it is.

There are cuts that bring the numbers in a bit under 2023 levels. But they make up that money but taking $10 billion from the $80 billion of expanded funding for the IRS. Taking $10 billion away from the increased funding for the IRS allows Republicans to say they clawed back some of the money going to that mythical army of IRS “agents” who are going to harass ordinary working folk. That’s not great. But $10 billion off the $80 billion leaves the great bulk of the funding intact and it basically protects key social spending

There are two additional provisions which, if they pan out, seem key. The debt ceiling is raised into 2025, so out past the next election. The deal also prevents Republicans from coming back for another bite at the apple later this year when it comes time to put together an actual budget. That’s always been one of the huge risks here. You’re forced to agree to ruinous cuts and then Republicans come back in 4 or 5 months to extort more cuts, this time with the threat of a government shutdown. This prevents that second bite at the apple and basically rules out the possibility of a government shutdown later this year.

Clawing back unspent COVID spending isn’t even mentioned in this piece. Perhaps that’s because it’s assumed at this point. I don’t know.

They’re still arguing over work requirements and so-called “permitting reform.”

Again: This isn’t great. There shouldn’t be a negotiation at all. But this is a fairly small payment for the hostage, given what was possible.

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