That's not nothing. But those measures don't do much to address the long-term debt problem that will come as the bulk of Baby Boomers retire, health care costs per person rise and interest on the growing debt builds.
What lawmakers have done is buy themselves a little time to plan for that future budget crunch.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that federal spending in coming decades will continually outpace revenue, and that the country's accumulated debt will keep growing faster than the economy.
End result: The vast majority of federal dollars will go to paying entitlement benefits and interest on the debt, leaving less money to pay for everything else Americans expect their government to do.
What lawmakers have now is a "quiet" period -- an improved economy and stabilized deficits. If they don't take advantage of it to start talking about these issues in earnest, it will be harder in the future to align spending pressures with incoming revenue. The longer lawmakers wait, the more abrupt the changes they may need to make.
"This is the time," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former CBO director and now president of the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank. "Fixing it in the middle of [the crunch] is not the time."
Lower deficits are no cause for celebration
So what is Washington doing? Pointing fingers at who is ignoring the issue more and worrying about the next election.