Visual Source: Newseum
Well, that was a crappy weekend. Today the rank and file in each party get to enjoy the compromise.
A deal to raise the federal debt ceiling is in the works. If it goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.
There is little to like about the tentative agreement between Congressional leaders and the White House except that it happened at all. The deal would avert a catastrophic government default, immediately and probably through the end of 2012. The rest of it is a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists. It will hurt programs for the middle class and poor, and hinder an economic recovery.
It is not yet set in stone, and there may still be time to make it better. But in the end, most Democrats will have no choice but to swallow their fury, accept the deal, and, we hope, fight harder the next time...
President Obama could have been more adamant in dealing with Republicans, perhaps threatening to use Constitutional powers to ignore the debt ceiling if Congress abrogated its responsibility to raise it. But this episode demonstrates the effectiveness of extortion. Reasonable people are forced to give in to those willing to endanger the national interest.
Democrats can look forward to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts next year, and will have to make the case in the 2012 elections for new lawmakers who will undo the damage.
For Mr. Obama, the most imminent blessings are avoiding a default and delaying the next fight over raising the debt limit until after the 2012 election. (House Republicans wanted to have another debate early next year.) He also can present himself as a deficit-cutting president, even though a fair share of the $2.4 trillion in cuts is unpopular with his core followers.
But the fine print of the agreement makes clear that Republicans received more of what they demanded than did Mr. Obama, who acquiesced in his initial call for a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenues, despite repeatedly trying to seize the bully pulpit to build support for his argument.
For many liberals, this concession — and the president’s unwillingness to make a more full-throated case for greater action to address joblessness and protect other Democratic priorities — could undermine legislative support for the deal and increase the challenge of motivating voters in 2012.
But Obama administration officials are also aware of the precarious risk the president was running if he strikes a deal that Congressional Democrats find hard to swallow. Mr. Obama’s top political aides, including Vice President Joseph R. Biden and the senior White House adviser David Plouffe, were on the phone Sunday afternoon with Democratic leaders, who gathered in the Capitol Sunday afternoon to explore the outlook for the measure.If Nancy Pelosi says she has enough votes, she has the votes (not yet said, though everyone trusts her to get them.) But Boehner? He is a weak leader with no control of his nutter caucus, so the senior members of the GOP House will have to pretend to be grown-ups for a couple of days. They won't fool anyone, though they might get this passed.
Chris Cillizza on winners:
President Obama: The president needed a deal of some sort to prove that he was capable of making the government work — even if it took until the eleventh (and a half) hour to strike the compromise. Liberals are likely to be deeply unhappy about the nature of the deal, which includes no increases in taxes or revenue. But remember that Obama’s target constituency in 2012 is not his base but rather independent and moderate voters. And those fence-sitters love compromise in almost any form.and losers:
Liberals: As the basic framework of the deal emerged, liberals began voicing their discontent about a bargain that left their side wanting more. With no revenue in the initial phase of the legislation and Medicare cuts on the table in the second phase, there’s not much for the ideological left to celebrate.Some rare self-reflection from the tea party:
But as a deal was being crafted in Washington on Sunday, it was unclear whether the public, or even members of the far-flung tea party bloc itself, would hold the fledgling movement responsible for the crisis that sent the country to the brink of default. The tea party could see victory quickly turn to defeat if more Americans blame it for pushing its agenda too far.More winner and loser stuff from WaPo:
Even some tea party activists agree. They say the politicians who are rejecting compromise in the name of tea party principles are misreading the views of the movement itself. They worry that, if the public blames the tea party for a default, the tea party’s influence — and electoral fortunes — will suffer. And those activists worry that such an outcome could end the momentum in Washington to improve the nation’s fiscal health over the long term.
One senior Senate Democratic aide said that averting a default was a victory of sorts for Obama, “but when you look at the emerging details, spending cuts and triggers with no revenue, the president got rolled.”but see also:
Asked if the deal was “balanced,” as the president had required, former Obama White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said: “Not by any stretch of the imagination.”
But an official argued that the ultimate trigger was the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of 2012. Obama would block extension of the cuts, either as a final act in office after losing the November 2012 election or as a safely reelected two-term president.Bottom line:
Nonetheless, liberals were furious as the terms of the agreement came into focus Sunday, and yet another capitulation by Obama on economic policy threatened to further dampen enthusiasm among the core Democratic voters he will need to win reelection next year.Next up: GOP wanna-be presidential candidates weigh in after the fact, thereby lowering their stature even further. Has anyone lost sleep wondering what Tim Pawlenty thinks? Don't wonder about Michele Bachmann... she hates it.
But, for a White House eager to improve its standing with centrist independents who have been fleeing Obama, even a losing deal can be a winning strategy.
The unsung hero is Democratic Leader Pelosi. She stuck to her guns on protecting Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries. By leveraging the confusion in the circular firing squad that is the House GOP, she won exemptions to protect safety net entitlements - which means to avoid the default deep cuts mandated in the legislation, tax reform (and increases) will have to be on the table.