Can lightning — in this case, in the form of another government shutdown — strike twice in Washington?
Amid the giddiness of the holiday season is a looming January deadline. Funding for the government expires the middle of next month and a second round of sequester cuts is scheduled to take place.
This is the same scenario that occurred in October when a deadlocked Congress resulted in a 16-day government shutdown. While there was plenty of blame to go around, many pundits thought the Republican party had the biggest black eye because of the way its leaders handled the crisis.
There are signs the problem will be managed differently this time. Media reports indicate that a bipartisan conference committee has reached a tentative budget deal. Its co-chairs, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis. and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), are expected to finalize a deal by the end of this week.
But there is a potential stumbling block. Democrats want to extend unemployment benefits beyond the usual 26 weeks, with an additional 28 extra weeks, but Republicans oppose that.
Recent jobless numbers and other economic indicators are pointing to an uptick in the economy. The last thing the nation needs is an economic setback triggered by another government shutdown.
Whether Congress learned its lesson from the debacle in October remains to be seen. It would be a nice Christmas present to see an agreement that both parties can embrace.