Federal lawmakers have narrowly avoided<NO1><NO> an embarrassing and unnecessary government shutdown. But we see little reason to cheer.
In recent weeks, congressional leaders have shown what can only described as a California-like commitment to dysfunction and intransigence.
Here, in the Golden State, we're accustomed to the budget process being held hostage by the political fringe. We're used to seeing state employees and residents kept in the dark and contractors brought to the point of accepting IOUs while a team of legislative leaders known as "the big five" hammer out a multi-billion spending plan behind locked doors.
But Americans have not seen such antics at the federal level since 1995, the last time the government was brought to a standstill.
With a deadline of midnight Friday creeping ever closer, it looked as if it was going to happen again. But then, with less than a couple of hours to spare, House Democrats and the White House came to terms on a plan that reportedly will cut $39 billion from the budget and, most important, will allow the government to continue operating until the end of September.
A visibly pleased President Barack Obama said that the last-minute deal with congressional leaders occurred because "Americans of different beliefs came together."
The House and Senate were expected to quickly approve a stopgap measure until a broader bill and be approved within the week.
"This has been a lot of discussion and a long fight," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. He called it "the biggest annual spending cut in history," saying it would reduce government spending by $500 billion over the next decade.
Still, we're left to wonder why the nation was forced to go through all of this. What was accomplished? All indications were that congressional leaders were already in agreement on the central issue — the amount of spending cuts to be made in the near-term. The primary hang-up appeared to be Republican demands on policy changes, namely the elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood and a reduction of authority for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although Planned Parenthood provides medical examinations for women, screenings for cervical cancer, counseling for couples and other services, that was not was this was about. It was about abortion.