Debt limit debacle: Who won and who lost? (video)
Congress appears to be on its way toward passing a deal that will end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit, at least until next year. But it's tough to find any winners.
It looks like the Twin Peaks Crisis of the government shutdown and threatened Treasury default is really over. It’s always possible that something could jam the process at the last minute but right now the compromise agreement between Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky appears set to clear Congress and reach President Obama’s desk as early as Wednesday evening.Skip to next paragraph
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With the end in sight our thoughts have (naturally) turned to who won and who lost as a result of the weeks-long standoff. Here’s a preliminary scorecard that we reserve the right to reconsider.
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None that we can see. White House spokesman Jay Carney said this on Wednesday and it’s quite possible he’s right. The fiscal crisis of fall 2013 has only increased the disregard in which the rest of America holds Washington.
The Republican Party’s poll numbers have plunged to record lows, but numbers for Democrats have fallen as well. Mr. Obama’s job approval rating has reached a new low in the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major polls: 51.4 percent now have an unfavorable opinion of his actions.
Yes, the Senate compromise leaves the GOP with virtually nothing new to show for the shutdown and default crisis. But is that victory for the Democratic Party? Spending levels remain locked at sequester levels, much lower than Democrats would like. The agreement only keeps the government open until Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. That means it’s possible we’ll be back in the same fight next year.
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Democrats think that the recent unpleasantness has at least killed the GOP’s appetite for using the debt limit as leverage in policy disputes. As left-leaning blogger Greg Sargent explains, the theory is that by refusing any meaningful concessions in exchange for a debt limit hike this time, Obama has “driven home that GOP debt ceiling extortion will never be rewarded again.”
Well, we’ll see. First of all, Republicans might object to the word “extortion” here. And political fiscal crises, as much as they seem alike, take place amid subtly different circumstances, so we wouldn’t rule tactics in or out. Remember, the GOP thought Democrats would crack this time, as they did in 2011’s budget battle. But that experience just made the administration all the more determined to hang tough this time.
(In order of degree, from lower to higher)
President Obama. (See above.) There’s a reason why US chief executives often look like they’re aging prematurely in office.
Ted Cruz. Yes, it’s true that Senator Cruz is now the most famous Texas Republican, surpassing the once and possibly future presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry. Cruz’s semi-filibuster on Obamacare and his urging of House Republicans to stand firm may now have made him president of US conservatives.
But in our view what Cruz has done is make himself a famous politician and potentially wealthy television commentator who will probably never be elected president of the United States.
That’s only partly because he’s been the face of tea party conservatives. That’s an important faction in US electoral politics: tea party adherents or leaners make up 49 percent of the GOP primary electorate, according to a July Pew poll.