Share This Page

Obama seals deals on budget, defense

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 7:00 p.m.

HONOLULU — Rounding out a tough and frustrating year, President Obama signed a bipartisan budget deal on Thursday easing spending cuts and a defense bill cracking down on sexual assault in the military, as the president and Congress began pivoting to the midterm election year ahead.

Obama put his signature on the hard-fought bills while vacationing in Hawaii with his family. The signing marks one of Obama's last official acts in a year beset by a partial government shutdown, a near-default by the Treasury, a calamitous health care rollout and near-perpetual congressional gridlock.

Although the budget deal falls short of the grand bargain that Obama and congressional Republicans aspired to, it ends the cycle of fiscal brinkmanship — for now — by preventing another shutdown for nearly two more years.

But the rare moment of comity may be short-lived. Hanging over the start of the new year is a renewed fight over raising the nation's borrowing limit, which the Treasury says must be resolved by late February or early March to avert an unprecedented default. Both sides are positioning behind customary hard-line positions, with Republicans insisting they want concessions before raising the debt limit and Obama insisting he won't negotiate.

The last vestiges of 2013's legislative wrangling behind him, Obama's attention turns to major challenges and potential bright spots in the year ahead. In late January, Obama will give his fifth State of the Union address, setting his agenda for the final stretch before the 2014 midterm elections, in which all of the House and one-third of the Senate are on the ballot.

The elections could drown out much of Obama's effort to focus attention on his own, key agenda items.

Those include his signature health care law. The critical enrollment period for insurance exchanges closes on March 31. Also at midyear, Obama will seek to secure a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran before a six-month deal struck in November runs out.

“Hopefully, the president has finally learned that if he wants a productive second term, we need to focus on finding areas of common ground,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Wary of letting expectations get too high, Obama's advisers have been careful not to read too much into Congress' success in trumping pessimistic expectations and pulling off a modest, end-of-year budget deal.

On Thursday, senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer called for a renewed focus in the new year on job creation, an unemployment insurance extension and a boost in the minimum wage.

“While it's too early to declare a new era of bipartisanship, what we've seen recently is that Washington is capable of getting things done when it wants to,” Pfeiffer said. “There's an opportunity next year for this town to do its job and make real progress.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.