(AP) People hoping for a government that works better can't decide whether to cheer or lament a bipartisan budget bill that legislative leaders call a breakthrough even as they acknowledge it does little.
In an era of low expectations, House passage of the bill marks a rare cease-fire that should avoid a repeat of this fall's government shutdown and flirtation with default.
Yet it comes nowhere near the more ambitious efforts to address long-term spending and debt. Such comprehensive plans repeatedly collapsed in recent years despite secret White House talks, blue-ribbon panels, a congressional "supercommittee" and other devices and tactics.
Several Washington insiders warn against assuming the new budget deal will lead to progress on immigration and other stalemated issues.
"The president calls it a good first step, but to what?" said Bob Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, which advocates far-reaching budget reforms. "My fear is that it may be the end of the search for the larger grand bargain rather than the beginning."
"Grand bargain" refers to a bipartisan accord that would start to slow the long-term cost projections of Social Security and Medicare while raising tax revenues to lower the deficit, among other things.
The bill that passed the House on Thursday, and awaits Senate action, is a tiny step forward, Bixby said.
Some lawmakers see the glass half full. They hope the budget deal will cool partisan passions in 2014 and beyond.
One possible area of renewed effort is a proposed immigration overhaul. The Democratic-run Senate passed a version this year, but the Republican-controlled House has stalled it.
Advocates talk of a possible piecemeal House approach. But Democrats and Republicans are divided on whether millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be given a path to citizenship. Some influential lawmakers say the budget deal doesn't necessarily brighten prospects elsewhere.
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