It's not over: Big budget battles ahead even after 'fiscal cliff' deal

Alex Brandon/AP

The Capitol building in Washington D.C.

We're sorry to start the first work day of 2013 on a negative note, but here goes:

Though the House voted 257-167 late Tuesday to OK legislation that kept the federal government from going over the so-called fiscal cliff — and stopped income taxes from rising for about 99 percent of Americans — lawmakers didn't reach agreement on other very divisive issues.

Which means, as NPR's John Ydstie said on Morning Edition, some big battles await in coming months. It's like another Lord of the Rings trilogy — we know at least two more stories are coming and it's clear there's going to be a lot of nastiness before the day is (we hope) saved.

In mid-February, the nation will again hit its "debt ceiling." So there will be another argument like the one in 2011 that nearly put the federal government into default and led to a downgrading of its credit rating. And in about two months, because the White House and Congress extended the deadline, deep spending cuts that had been set to hit on Jan. 1 will come around again.

In other words, lawmakers left "a huge amount of fighting for the New Year," as Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep put it.

Here's how some other news outlets are reporting about what lies ahead:

-- "Republicans immediately turned to their next battle — a bid to use the need to raise the nation's $16.4 trillion debt ceiling to force Obama to accept cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare. Congress must act as early as mid-February to prevent a default and the dispute may reprise a similar 2011 episode that led to a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating." (Bloomberg News)

-- "The bill does not accomplish everything. Not by a long shot. By striking only an eleventh-hour decision, pols have set up a continual series of debates and fights in coming weeks that will roil markets." (Forbes)

-- The deal was a "feeble finish to the 'fiscal cliff' fiasco," says the editorial board at The Washington Post.

What is in the legislation that made its way through the Senate and House over the holiday? Bill laid out the details here.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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