Our Views: What we need in Congress

While it’s taking more time than expected — a phrase that can be applied to most anything the 113th Congress has turned its hands to — there seems a pretty good prospect for an actual federal budget deal that will stick for a while.

This deal would follow the compromise, much criticized in some quarters, fashioned last month by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, for the Republicans and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington, state for the Democrats.

Although it did not meet the Jan. 15 deadline, a deal to fund the government is still likely to occur. The House approved the compromise in a lopsided vote, 359-67, and the Senate easily passed the $1.1 trillion government-wide funding bill.

This is pretty good news for Republicans, who embarrassed themselves last year in a partial government shutdown that never should have occurred. Avoiding that in an election year is a shrewd priority for the GOP leadership, and working to a budget accommodation is important for them, but also good for the post-2008 healing of the economy.

In the larger context, does this mean the memorably do-nothing Congress will redeem itself this year? Not likely.

Analyst Charlie Cook in the National Journal said pretty much everybody agrees the political culture of Capitol Hill is at an all-time low. “Each side is constantly trying to best position itself and to frame the next election in the minds of voters in the most advantageous way. The idea of actually accomplishing something is not entirely dead, but it generally belongs to the eternal optimists and the wishful thinkers.”

We hope for the best, but it’s difficult to see a path toward more legislative compromises in such an environment.

On a parochial note, Louisiana desperately needs some compromises to get long-term legislation passed that will help our state.

Louisiana needs a new water projects bill, in which Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is taking a leading role. This, like a long-term farm bill, is important to Louisiana agriculture as well as other industries. If Vitter and his colleagues can work out a compromise on the water bill, then on a farm bill, this state as well as the nation would be better off.

And there is the continuing battle over flood insurance premiums, where Louisiana needs some relief, even if a large national compromise is not worked out over its finances.

Maybe those aren’t the big headlines like immigration reform, but Louisiana will be watching and hoping.