Let’s go back to the raw politics. Can we say that Republicans got the better of the no-shutdown deal? Yes, because if there had been a shutdown, Republicans would have been blamed for it. The record was all cued up. Democrats spent months predicting that Boehner would have trouble controlling his new Tea Party members. They spent this week saying he had to put the Tea Party “horse back in the barn,” as Dick Durbin said. Well, there’s a deal – the implication is that he put the horse back in the barn. If the Republicans would have been blamed for a shutdown, it follows that they get credit for a shutdown being avoided.
[T]he notion that Democrats were going to get a radically better deal, with Republicans having such a large and conservative majority in the House, is probably unrealistic. It’s also conceivable that they would have gotten a worse one — say $45 or $50 billion in cuts — had Mr. Boehner made a bolder offer initially.
I’m not sure I can think of an example of a party that leverage[d] control of one House of Congress into significant policy movement in its direction on a high profile issue. When Democrats took control of the Senate in 2001, there was the sense that they could limit the ambition of President Bush’s domestic agenda, but nobody considered the possibility that they could force Bush to move policy in their direction as a condition for keeping the government open. Even when the Democrats won both Houses of Congress in 2006, they used their leverage merely to veto additional policy changes in Bush’s direction, not to adopt their own policy goals opposed by Bush.
[W]hy were Reid and Obama so eager to celebrate Boehner’s compromise with his conservative members? The Democrats believe it’s good to look like a winner, even if you’ve lost. But they’re sacrificing more than they let on. By celebrating spending cuts, they’ve opened the door to further austerity measures at a moment when the recovery remains fragile. Claiming political victory now opens the door to further policy defeats later.
Republicans should feel plenty confident heading into the upcoming debates over the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget, Paul Ryan’s daring proposal to cut the deficit by $6 trillion. This deal, thanks to Boehner’s robust leadership, was a good start — much less for the size of the spending cuts it yielded than for the political dynamic it revealed. They will need all the political capitol they can muster going forward, because it’s only the beginning.
The debate dramatizes how completely budget policy has displaced economic policy in Washington debate. Tonight’s action may help stabilize federal finances. But even economists who support spending cuts will acknowledge that the immediate effect of cuts is to subtract demand from the economy. A strongly growing economy can sustain and benefit from this demand-subtraction. The US economy in 2011 is not a strongly growing economy. Yet how much time has the new Congress spent debating ideas to accelerate growth?
Everyone involved should be embarrassed. But few journalists seem to think that this absurd sequence of events will in anyway reduce the likelihood of an even greater mess down the road when it comes time to raise the federal debt ceiling. The case for raising the debt ceiling is incredibly strong. … And yet, the government will likely be pushed to the edge of crisis. These fights are risky and counterproductive. Sadly, I suspect that the reaction of most of the Washington press corps will be to—once again—get so caught up in the tick-tock of the dramatic showdown that they'll neglect to point out just how magnificently the elected leadership in Washington is failing its citizenry.
I suspect Obama really is a long-term deficit hawk and figures that the current budget battle, though not really of his choosing, can be turned to his advantage. He's agreed to cuts but also shown that he'll fight against crazy cuts, and he thinks that will help him take the high ground when he unveils his own long-term deficit program on Wednesday. This isn't how the events of the past week look to us liberals, of course, but I'll bet it's approximately what they look like to independents. And as we've all learned over the past couple of years, Obama doesn't really care much about how liberals view events.
It is more than a little depressing that Boehner—who embodies the regressive, lobbyist-driven politics that Obama was supposed to banish—is now Obama’s political wingman. But that’s what has become of the Obama revolution. Not long ago, this was an era of liberal dreams. Now liberals must content themselves, once again, with reelecting a Democratic president, even as his interests and theirs continue to diverge.
[T]here’s a case to be made that Reid and Obama would have been better off taking a much harder line, and then just sitting back and chuckling as the Tea Party caucus pushed an unwilling Boehner off the plank. So why didn’t they? Well, maybe they put country before party, and calculated that shutting down the government over what amounts to a fraction of a fraction of a vast federal budget would be horribly irresponsible, even if it made liberals happy and redounded to the Democratic Party’s short-term benefit. If so, good for them.
The costs in terms of over-zealous cutting are small — very small — in comparison to the vast decisions to be made next. For that reason, I'm not convinced yet that this was quite the defeat for the president that a lot of people are claiming. It all depends what comes next.
(Photo: U.S. diplomats and federal workers take part in a rally against the prospect of a government shutdown, Friday, April 8, 2011, in Washington. The rally was organized by the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA). By Jacquelyn Martin/AP)