The Budget Control Act is a very small step in the right direction.
$2 trillion of spending cuts is big for Congress but small relative to our underlying fiscal problems. If this bill becomes law and if the fall Joint Committee process is successful, the remaining spending problem will be more than an order of magnitude larger than this accomplishment. If you think this summer has been painful or dread the battle of this fall, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait until Congress wrestles with the big stuff.
So far, small steps have been working pretty well for conservatives:
Three times in the past year Congressional Republicans have played brinksmanship with the President and come out ahead: the December 2010 tax rate fight, the Spring 2011 CR fight, and now the Summer 2011 debt limit fight. They have a game plan that has delivered multiple incremental wins so far, and a playing field that favors them for the Fall 2011 Joint Committee fight. In a balanced Washington they have successfully leveraged a debt limit increase to cut spending and not raise taxes.
For these reasons I am fairly optimistic this bill provides an opportunity for another incremental win this fall. If I'm right, it also establishes a pattern for when the debt limit expires in 2013.
This pattern is important. In the past, the debt limit has been increased 70+ times with no strings attached. Now, the precedent has been set that debt limit increases should be matched dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts. That's a powerful precedent.