The polar(-ized) ice caps of Congress may seem like they're melting with the passage of a budget deal crafted by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., but political observers point out there's still much the two parties disagree on – beyond even the science behind the melt.
It was Ryan's cachet as a bonafide conservative and economic thought-leader for the GOP base that enabled House Speaker John Boehner to corral his caucus into passing the compromise, which nearly everyone agrees is meager in scope and avoided the hottest-button issues, such as tax and entitlement reform.
While Boehner got feisty with the conservative political groups who criticized the deal, they've proved to be key motivators of rank-and-file members – and leadership – in the past. One only has to look to the last time it seemed like the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate were expected to have a "Kumbayah" moment – immigration reform, fueled by then-conservative favorite Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – to see how this song is likely to end. Rubio fell - quickly - from favor, despite a Herculean public relations effort in conservative media circles.
"The best thing you can say about this deal is it's a small step for the budget and a giant leap for the budget process -- that's the hope," says Jason Gumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group that champions compromise.
Bill Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, points to Ryan's street cred as the key to the deal-making, which he also sees as a one-off.
"Boehner knew that most of his caucus thought it was time to get this off the table and he also knew this was not a squishy moderate who had taken the lead in negotiating," he says. "This was a conservative hero – someone who is to Republicans on the budget what Ted Kennedy was to Democrats on social policy – the voice of the conscience."
And though knee-jerk reaction to the spending compromise was that it heralded a new era of comity, Galston says there are already signs members are saying good riddance to good will. From Boehner to Ryan and down the line, Republicans are already talking about extracting political concessions from Democrats for the next debt authorization vote in February, he says.
"'Get something' for the debt ceiling. I've heard that phrase repeated from Boehner on down," Galston says. "So drawing a straight line from the budget agreement to even other fiscal questions I just think is a mistake."
Two of the major policy items sitting on the table, immigration reform and passing a farm bill, won't be affected by the budget deal, Galston predicts. The farm bill will get settled, Galston says, because too many financial interests – including pro-Republican ones – are at stake.
But immigration is a whole other animal.
"I don't think what just happened portends a new era of good feeling on immigration policy, not at all. I don't see the connection," Galston says.
Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar and co-author of "The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track" – a book on congressional dysfunction published in 2008 – said the underlying reasons for political paralysis simply have not changed.
"The bottom line remains that Boehner and the rest of the leadership team are still viewed by a sizable share of their colleagues with suspicion that they are not 'real' conservatives," he wrote in The Atlantic Thursday. "Even if the tea party or other radical forces in and outside the GOP, including lawmakers and groups like Heritage Action, were beaten back on the budget deal and dissed publicly more than once by the speaker, they are still driving and dominant forces in the party."
So while good cheer may be permeating the halls of the Capitol for now and lawmakers with a record-low approval rating are preening, expect a return to what's become routine.