Budget Politics Returns to Washington

Man with shocked expressionIn the movie Casablanca, Louis the French gendarme played by Claude Rains is forced by the evil Nazis to shut down Rick’s Café American.   Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is furious about the shutdown and demands to know on what grounds his café is being closed. Louis states, “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!”  Of course that Louis is the most prolific gambler of any of Rick’s customers is what makes the announcement so ironically funny.

So, too, in Washington: I am amused when one side announces that the other side is playing politics with an issue.  Really, politics?  In Washington?  I’m shocked!

Nonetheless, before the year is less than a third over, some observers are already speculating that election politics might play into the effort to pass FY 2015 spending bills.  A writer for one well-respected policy publication opined that Senate Republicans may have little incentive to cooperate on passing spending bills and put them off until a lame-duck session, and the Democrats may also have a motive to avoid politically difficult votes.  A GOP Senator recently offered this appraisal: “There’s ‘always an argument’ to wait until after the elections in order to get a better deal on pending legislation.”

Okay, so maybe this is about as shocking as Louis declaring that he’s shocked by gambling in Rick’s.  But I have to admit it is a little shocking that already both sides are doing the political calculus on spending bills before a single one has been drafted.

Are we really going to go through the torture of anticipating a showdown over a looming government shutdown again this year?  Just because one side or the other wants to gauge the political advantages or disadvantages of a post-election deal?

Ultimately, it’s not very likely. Voters, already scalded by a rough economy and previous shenanigans in Washington over government shutdowns and debt default brinksmanship, are even less tolerant of such actions this year. And there’s an election looming for them to vent that frustration.

So maybe this is all just politics as usual, and in the end, political gambling in Washington is about as shocking as gambling at Rick’s. And there are good signs that we won’t get near to a shutdown.

Goodwill® has offered its support for spending on job programs, building on the bipartisan efforts for the FY 2014 spending bill that boosted core workforce programs by $121 million.  We’ll be working to achieve that goal this year; watch for out alerts and updates as Congress moves ahead.