Sanity returns: Congress, for a change, manages to do its job

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Congress last week passed a $1.1 trillion, two-year spending bill that keeps the threat of another unproductive government shutdown at bay. It signals that, at least for now, the Tea Party kamikazes have not sunk the art of compromise essential to the American system of governance.

Although it is great news that Democrats and Republicans have rediscovered a talent for working together, it is an indication of how political partisanship has brought the nation so low that Americans are left to applaud the simple fact that lawmakers have done their jobs. Although it is a great victory for process, the verdict on what it actually achieved is mixed.

The final bill was the fruit of weeks of negotiations between Rep. Harold Rogers, R.-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. The Senate passed it 72-26, with all nay votes cast by Republicans, after the House had passed it a day earlier, 359-67, with three Democrats joining the Republican opponents.

Remarkably, funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act survived, despite its being seen previously as a poison pill by conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but both parties experienced the sweet and sour, according to their own tastes. Some $9 billion in unrequested funds was approved for overseas military and diplomatic operations. The Head Start early education program got an additional $1 billion over last year.

To Tea Party stalwarts, the fact that the bill increases spending by about $26 billion over fiscal 2013 was reason enough to oppose it. But the deficit has been falling and it makes no sense to starve an economy that is struggling to revive.

Soon lawmakers must decide what to do about raising the debt limit, but for the moment sanity has returned and the government is functioning. That, too, is something to applaud.

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