Congress Actually Had a Productive Day Today

These guys actually talk to each other? Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images/2011 Getty Images

It's not often that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid uses the C-word in public, but today he did — twice — in reference to House Majority Leader John Boehner, who helped him stave off yet another government shutdown.

I appreciate [Boehner’s] cooperation in this matter, and I hope that we can face these challenges ahead with the same cooperation that we’ve had in the spirit of compromise the last few days on this issue.

The two men have agreed on a deal to keep the government funded for six months past September 30. Although actual draft legislation won't be voted on until Congress returns from its five-week recess in early September, Politico reports that it'll be free of any "controversial riders," making its passage likely — but not assured.

While Republicans hope this will revert attention back to the stagnant economy, and neither party wants to see an ugly budget dispute during election season, Congress's tea party conservatives are likely to balk at the deal's $1.047 trillion annual price tag. (That's nearly $200 million more than what Representative Paul Ryan's controversial budget called for.) Already, the tea party patriots have tarred Boehner for his "lack of guts." But considering that the last few government spending bills were only agreed upon at the eleventh hour, today's news is a sure sign of progress.

Also today, the House passed a law by a 261–116 margin exempting nearly 170 presidential appointments from lengthy and too often politicized Senate confirmations. Since the bill was already approved by the Senate last summer, it will now head to President Obama's desk, one of very few bills sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that did not expressly deal with renaming post offices. "It isn't often that Congress voluntarily takes steps to curb its own power," New York Senator Chuck Schumer told Politico, "but for the good of our democracy, the Senate must become more efficient."

Also, the House failed to pass an anti-abortion bill for the District of Columbia.

So score one point for bipartisan cooperation, another point for self-streamlining, and yet another for briefly ignoring the culture war. That's more points than Congress has racked up since, well, it tried to correct a legislative typo with another typo.