So, apparently, we have a deal that will reopen the federal government and -- more importantly for the world's economy -- allow the United States to pay its bills.
We can all breathe a sign of relief now, right? Well, perhaps, as long as it is a short sigh.
The deal struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday apparently averts a crisis for the moment, but it does little to settle the significant matters at issue. In short, it kicks the can down the road and sets up what could be another train wreck in early 2014.
The deal will allow the nation to raise its debt ceiling through Feb. 7.
It also avoids any significant change to the nation's new health care law, which is a major victory for Democrats because early on in this standoff some vocal Republicans had made defunding it the bull's-eye of their efforts.
While we remain skeptical that this agreement can create an atmosphere for effective governance, there are at least two small glimmers of hope.
First, the deal establishes a committee of House and Senate leaders with the task of finding some serious common ground on budget matters.
The panel will be chaired Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., head of the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee. Both are bright minds who understand budgets and are tough-but-reasonable negotiators. The committee will be charged with producing a "negotiated budget resolution" in December that would help prevent frequent budget confrontations.
Can it happen? Sure. Will it? Ah, we'll have to get back to you on that.
The second shard of hope is that many of the top Republicans are openly critical of the tactics used by their more extreme brethren. These members employed a misguided strategy that was destined to fail from the beginning and was not instructed by history. That showed in their poll numbers as the GOP took a terrible beating just as they had done during a shutdown nearly two decades ago.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that once the debt deadline approached Republicans had little or no leverage left.
"This package is a joke compared to what we could have gotten if we had a more reasonable approach," Graham said. "For the party, this is a moment of self-evaluation, we are going to assess how we got here. If we continue down this path, we are really going to hurt the Republican Party long term."
We agree with Graham and hope that members of both parties can understand that shutting down government is not effective governance and demonstrates no leadership whatsoever.