Nobody is happy with the final compromise product that passed the House Monday afternoon and is certain to pass the Senate tomorrow. By its very essence it pissed off everybody which is idiot-speak in DC for compromise. But it showed one thing for depressed and angry conservatives that Republicans did get more out of the deal. And exhbit one is business as usual in DC is dead. DC has always changed the politicans that have entered it regardless of partisanship. Well ladies and gentlemen, it looks like that has just changed.
But to understand this phenomenon we have to look at the debt ceiling in full. And by look at I mean analyze how Republicans with the help of the Tea Party movement drove the debate on the debt ceiling. For conservatives angry with the deal it is easy to lose sight of the fact that many things Democrats said they would never have backed down from they did. Tax increases. Nope. Revenue enhancements. No way. Removing tax credits for oil companies and corporate jet owners. Naha, althought this claim by the president time and time again was outrageous every time he spoke it. And finally, the final product actually touches entitlements. Not to a substantial degree but the fact Democrats let them even be considered, let alone touched is amazing. And Nancy Pelosi I believe even swallowed bile when she voted for the final product.
We all remember 2010. It ushered in 87 freshman and women into Congress, a full 79 of them Republican. These men and women came to DC to change things. And oh did they. They had already showcased what they stood for prior on the continuing resolution debate in May but that really was to keep the government operating for just a year. This debate was about keeping the government from defaulting on its obligations (though a resonable argument can be made we would not) and making the case we could not continue to spend like we are and prosper.
Both parties are responsible for where we are today. Countless times have Republicans and Democrats voted to raise the debt ceiling. But the key difference this time was an unprecedented deficit as a percentage of GDP and 79 Republican freshman and women. Here they staked out their claim and by default made the GOP do the same. Pundits talked for months how beyond the CR this would be the battle royale and would determine whether the Tea Party had life in establishment GOP circles. It is safe to say they do.
The simple answer is that the Tea Party and GOP won the debate by standing on principle. The more complicated answer is they stood firm but used political circumstance to their advantage. For example, in the Senate the President had no realistic chance of passing tax increases, let alone the GOP controlled House. Republicans and the Tea Party also knew the president was only blustering about tax increases. Like Senate Democrats the president wants to get reelected in 2012 and it is hard to do that when middle class America blames you for tax increases as well as a horrid economy. All this combined for the Tea Party and the GOP to call the Democrats bluff and when it came down to the wire Democrats backed off.
Sure the Republican leadership had their share of heartburn with many of their freshman/women members. But to be honest a lot of self-serving and long-time GOP politicans also took this time to vex Boehner and McConnell(his has to be the worst idea ever proposed in Senate history and that is saying something), especially Boehner in the House. The GOP’s internal struggles were never, ever over whether it would cave on its demands. Rather it was on hoe best to achieve their principles and goals. Leadership Republicans seem to favor incrementalism (has worked so well before) while freshmen/women wanted a Balanced Budget Amendment to make it happen immediately. By definition this is change in DC. Funny, I thought the current occupant of the WH promised us this in 2008.
While I can say I personally thought the GOP got the better of the debt ceiling deal some Democrats and liberals can say the same. Though considering the anger and vitriol coming from the left and their blogs I think a lot more of them think they did worse off. And why not? The only thing liberals can console themselves with is that defense spending will have to be cut in the “Super Committe’s” recommendation to cut the deficit after Thanksgiving. Considering liberals lost their sacred cows of “Taxing the rich” and “Hands off my entitlements” that is a lot more then the GOP gave up.
In the end Republicans and the Tea Party drove the debate on the debt ceiling. They have moved the political thinking in DC from thinking “No cuts” to “Some cuts” to “We really have to make some substantial cuts.” And changing DC is a hell of a lot harder then not being changed by DC. The Tea Party movement has proven it has life within the GOP and outside the party in mainstream America. This means the GOP and the Tea Party movement, championing the same values and beliefs, will continue to drive the debate in DC and perhaps make it a place America can say they our proud of again.