Budget

The agreement announced Tuesday, however modest, is a step in the right direction.

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Usually, Republicans direct their bitter hatred for all things intellectual at individual people—like, for example, our “professorial” president. This week, Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III got a little more fundamental and decided to wage war against humanistic inquiry in general.

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New bipartisan negotiations over fiscal policy are underway, as a result of the deal that ended the government shutdown. But don’t expect these negotiations to produce a “grand bargain” in which Democrats and Republicans each make major concessions.

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The bar has been set pretty high these past few years for clueless hypocrisy among Washington elders offering bipartisan bromides to break the fiscal gridlock. But Leon Panetta just cleared it with a standing jump.

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Senate leaders are near an agreement that would re-open the government and increase the debt ceiling. According to multiple media reports—and since confirmed by TNR sources—the funding would last through January 15, the debt ceiling through February 7.

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Last week, House Speaker John Boehner reportedly floated the idea that the government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis could be resolved with a "grand bargain" that would reduce the long-term budget deficit. Whispers of such a deal continue, but

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Someday, these budget wars are going to end. On that day, when the world is once again safe for the passage of farm bills and Ted Cruz has finally run out of historical analogies, we’ll remember the Great Budget Negotiation of 2013 as little more than a chapter in a far longer story: that of the sequester.

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Is there a way out of the mess in Washington? It doesn’t seem that way. The Washington fandango over a government shutdown and breach of the debt ceiling is careening from farce toward tragedy.

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Here’s the question to ask yourself while watching the government shutdown/debt-limit insanity play out these next few days: Is the congressional GOP a global menace, bent on destruction of an epic scale, or merely a goofy, intermittently-competent-at-best, primarily self-destructive force?

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What the hell is John Boehner thinking? I don’t mean that strictly in a rhetorical sense, though it’s hard not to slap your head when you see the most powerful Republican in the country lurching from one cockamamie strategy to another. I mean it quite literally: What is Boehner’s personal calculation when it comes to navigating the various challenges—potential government shutdown, potential debt default, lunatic Republican caucus—he faces over the next few weeks?

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