Lawmakers weary from fiscal wars send Obama budget

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 17, 2014 at 10:42 am •  Published: January 17, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — After last fall's tumultuous, bitterly partisan debt ceiling and government shutdown battles, a sense of fiscal fatigue seems to be setting in among many Washington policymakers as President Barack Obama prepares for his fifth State of the Union address later this month.

A declining U.S. budget deficit, still-accommodative Federal Reserve and a small-bore budget deal negotiated last month — given final approval Thursday in Congress — are helping to temper partisan rhetoric in the short term as attention in Washington shifts to the approaching midterm elections.

The recovery from the deep recession of 2007-2009 has been one of the slowest in history and still has a ways to go, especially in terms of regaining lost jobs. That was driven home by a Labor Department report last Friday that U.S. employers added just 74,000 jobs last month, far fewer than had been forecast and the smallest monthly gain in three years.

The overall jobless rate dropped to 6.7 percent from 7 percent in November, the lowest level since October 2008. Much of the decline came from Americans who stopped looking for jobs and are no longer being counted by the government as unemployed. Meanwhile, a growing number of baby boomers are retiring.

Still, economists are generally predicting a pickup in economic growth in 2014 amid a continued favorable climate of low inflation, falling oil prices, a housing recovery and the Fed sticking to its plan to only slowly pare back the hundreds of billions of dollars in financial stimulus it has pumped into the economy over the past four years.

Meanwhile, recent polls show rising public distaste for brinkmanship and dysfunction on both sides of the political divide in Washington. In a recent poll, conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 70 percent said they lacked confidence in the government's ability "to make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014."

Last October, GOP conservatives forced a 16-day government shutdown with their failed attempt to defund Obama's health insurance overhaul. But any public relations advantage Democrats may have reaped from that episode may have been eroded or lost in the problem-plagued rollout of the health care program.

Leaders of both parties are expressing frustration over the recent bouts of gridlock that come from divided control of government, with Democrats now controlling both the executive branch and the Senate and Republicans ruling the House. Neither party wants to bear the blame for the perceived dysfunction — while both sides are quick to blame the other for it.

And both sides are trying to better position themselves as they calculate strategy with a close eye on potential midterm wins and losses.

The $1.1 trillion spending compromise grew out of an agreement negotiated last month by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. — leaders respectively of the House and Senate Budget committees. It funds the government through Sept. 30, eases across-the-board government mandatory spending cuts and eliminates, for now, the likelihood of an election-year government shutdown.



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