Republican Congress leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan review the 2300-page national budget they didn't read before passing it (illustrated)
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I rarely agree with Senator Rand Paul, who often seems like he only ran for the office to say “no” to everything.

But I did appreciate his latest Twitter stunt, where he made a spectacle of how Congress was rushing to pass a budget while his printer was still churning out a copy.

He’s right: Congress is pretty broken. Of course, he’s part of the problem — like so many Republicans, he sees “compromise” as a dirty word. And as people are still working through what’s in the bill two weeks later, we’re starting to see there actually was some good compromise going on here. Thank goodness Republicans didn’t read it all.

It’s all in the name of avoiding midterm election year embarrassment, of course — nobody wants to be blamed for another shutdown or seen as holding the government hostage. That’s why Trump signed it right away, minutes after griping and threatening to veto it, even though he got very little of what he wanted.

This is likely all we’re getting in terms of compromise and functional government until we throw some of the do-nothings out in November. So, let’s think positive.

The money keeps flowing

The biggest and most obvious benefit of having a budget in place is that the federal government doesn’t shut down. That means the economy keeps rolling.

It means government services remain available for everyone who relies on them — whether it’s trying to figure out your taxes, get Social Security or disability, file a consumer complaint, visiting federal lands, museums or national parks, and so on.

It means the U.S. credit rating is not at risk, which could raise interest rates on everybody’s borrowing: government, business, and consumer alike. It was downgraded in 2011 for the first time ever over the same issue.

And, in theory, it means Congress can focus on some practical issues instead of just paying its bills. But since it’s an election year, most likely it means they’ll be looking for easy little fixes they can run off and campaign on, rather than putting in the serious work to fix big issues like health care, the pay gap, and Trump’s circus — er, cabinet — wantonly deregulating everything.

New protections for low-wage workers

Many people don’t realized tipped workers like waitresses have a lower minimum wage than the rest of us. They can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour — a number that hasn’t gone up in decades, even as the normal federal minimum wage has.

Their tips — our generosity for good service — has to get them up to that federal minimum wage, or else the employer has to pay the difference. It’s a lousy system, but one our service economy is pretty dependent on. One of the unfortunate parts, though, is that employees who work in the back of restaurants — the cooks and dishwashers — don’t interact with customers and don’t get tips.

So one of the things Trump’s Labor Department looked at doing was creating a rule that required tip sharing. But it was badly worded and could have allowed bar and restaurant owners to simply pocket the extra money — nearly 400,000 Americans complained about it. So Congress fixed it with this giant budget law:

The spending bill passed this week amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow mandatory tip sharing with back-of-the-house employees. But it also includes explicit safeguards to prevent employers from skimming tips or using that money to compensate managers and supervisors.

It adds penalties for stolen tips and makes it possible for workers to sue over it.

Ignoring Trump’s cuts

The budget Congress passed looks nothing like the budget Trump proposed.

There’s fresh funding for public health research, which in the long run will lower health care costs. Research into renewable energy got a boost. There’s more money for opioid treatment.

It doesn’t kill any of the programs or agencies Trump wanted to kill, including some that help create jobs. It doesn’t make changes to replace the food stamp program, like Trump wanted.

Pell Grants, which help keep college students from needing student loans, weren’t cut like Trump wanted.

Overall, it’s the most sensible and adult thing Congress has done in a while. And even if it doesn’t tackle any big issues, it’s a tiny oasis of good news in the Trumpian desert.

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Article last modified on July 12, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: 6 Months Late, Congress Passed a Budget - AMP.

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Article last modified on July 12, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC .