Budget expert Stan Collender backs up my contention that we will still see a major fight on the FY2012 budget over spending cuts, regardless of the caps in this debt deal. In fact, it’s highly likely that tea party types believe the caps are too damn high.

Fiscal 2011 ends Sept. 30 and, given the current state of the fiscal 2012 appropriations debate, that almost certainly means a government shutdown will be threatened over the funding level for a continuing resolution.

Yes, the debt ceiling deal includes spending caps that, in theory, should make a CR easier to enact. But, especially in the House, a cap will be taken by some as just an upper limit rather than an agreed-upon amount that doesn’t require any further changes. As a result, the CR debate will be neither quick nor simple, with tea partyers pushing for spending reductions for fiscal 2012 beyond those in the deal.

What could make matters worse is that the CR might not — or probably won’t — be for a full year. Less than 24 hours after the debt ceiling agreement was announced, the GOP leadership apparently was using the prospect of a series of short-term continuing resolutions with additional spending cuts on each as one of the inducements to convince tea partyers to vote for the debt ceiling deal.

Heck, you have conservative organizations going nuts because the spending cap increases over time – at rates below inflation and population growth, I might add. There’s plenty of room to go, in this telling.

Collender uses this example to show that the deficit and spending will be the primary parlour game in Washington for the next 18 months, because of the various deadlines and bottlenecks both in this deal and as part of the standard legislative process. These bottlenecks will even connect with one another – conservatives may deny a short-term CR and threaten to shut down the government if the Super Congress doesn’t return its recommendations by a certain date. And once you get through the holidays and the CR’s and Fiscal Year 2012, then Fiscal Year 2013 starts up with the President’s budget due next February. And you have the Bush tax cuts to debate. And the election. There won’t be any pivot.

In fact, because the fiscal scolds see this deal as a disappointment, they will have every reason to want to continue to press their case – using Pete Peterson’s millions – and conservatives will be able to use this to shrink government even further.

And then there’s this, one of the other ways the GOP sold the deal to its caucus:

As a practical matter, if the full amount of the sequester were to be triggered, it would force a debate on what spending cuts could replace amounts being proposed to be sequestered. This debate would occur annually for the next nine years and keep the focus on the issue of spending well past the next election.

I understand this notion that the deal is somehow a bit better on paper than originally advertised. I don’t understand how anyone can think it will stop here.

David Dayen

David Dayen