Published Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:44 am
Short-term budget deal won't mask big barriers ahead

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hold the champagne.

Even after lawmakers complete their pending deal to avert a federal default and fully reopen the government, they are likely to return to their grinding brand of brinkmanship — perhaps repeatedly.

Wednesday's self-congratulations notwithstanding, congressional talks are barely touching the underlying causes of debt-and-spending stalemates that pushed the country close to economic crises in 2011, last December and again this month.

At best, lawmakers and the White House will agree to fund the government and raise the debt limit for only a few months. They also will call for yet another bipartisan effort to address the federal debt's major causes, including restricted revenue growth and entitlement benefits that rise automatically.

And yet, top advocates say they've seen virtually no change in the political dynamics that stymied past efforts for a compromise to end the cycle of brinkmanship and threats to harm the economy.

Republicans still adamantly oppose tax increases. Powerful interest groups and many Democrats still fiercely oppose cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits. And congressional rules still tempt lawmakers to threaten economic havoc — by sending the nation into default — if the opposing party doesn't yield to their demands.

“We're probably going to have to go through this a few more times,” said Bob Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, which advocates budget changes. Despite the compromise plan winning House, Senate and White House approval, Bixby said, it still leaves fundamental problems that “they haven't done anything to address.”

Henry J. Aaron, a Brookings Institution scholar who supports unprecedented legal action to avert future debt showdowns, agreed that three or four months of breathing room is a small victory. “If all we achieve is a repetition of this charade,” Aaron said, “we will not have achieved much.”

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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