Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Finally, It's a Deal.

After a final round of speculation yesterday over what might happen next, a final "Fiscal Cliff" averting legislative package passed the House late last night. The final House vote was 257-167 in favor, with Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) being the only member of Nevada's delegation (from either House) to vote against it.

And now, the G-O-TEA whining begins.

Apparently, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Crybaby) even yelled at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight) and told him to do something vulgar to himself. Perhaps this had something to do with it.

President Obama largely stood his ground and insisted on a balanced budget deal. And that's largely what he got. And on top of that, Obama is already starting to set the terms for the next "Cliff" that will arrive when the debt ceiling must be taken care of.

And in case that wasn't enough, perhaps the biggest blow to Congressional Republicans is their drastically reduced credibility on Capitol Hill.

If yesterday’s events were such a horrific defeat for the GOP, as many conservatives are telling us, it’s only because Republican leaders have spent months or years drumming it into GOP base voters’ heads that the most modest of tax increases on the very richest among us would constitute a sellout of deeply sacred principles. Remember when every GOP presidential nominee vowed not to accept even a 10 to one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases? Such stuff is not just bombastic primary rhetoric designed to feed the true believers. For many House Republicans, this idea — and the broader refusal to compromise at any cost — seems to have become a deeply held and guiding governing principle.

What does that tell us about what’s next? Last night Obama reiterated his vow not to negotiate if Republicans hold the debt ceiling hostage. That’s good. But I’m skeptical it will make any difference. Yesterday’s compromise has unleashed total fury among conservatives, and the pressure on Republicans to mount a sustained confrontation over the debt ceiling — and not to back down until they win major entitlement cuts — will be intense. Individual Republicans in safe districts are isolated from the currents of national opinion and have plenty of incentives to continue acting exactly as they are.

The other day I speculated that House conservatives may simply no longer be capable of playing a constructive or meaningful role in the conversation over how to put the country on a stable economic and fiscal footing. The events of the last few days do little to dispel that impression. With the debt ceiling battle looming, the only chance of future governing compromises may reside in the ability to build coalitions weighted towards House Democrats that also include crossover Republicans. The worst is yet to come.

Frankly, Greg Sargent also noted the downside to what's been happening this week. Even while "The Fiscal Cliff" has been averted, this is still just a temporary solution. G-O-TEA extremists will be demanding whole pounds of "fiscal flesh" when the debt ceiling is taken hostage yet again again up for debate. So there will be another round of insanity to witness in the new Congress this spring.

Yet even with that being said, it may just end up being a bunch of meaningless Sturm und Drang. Why, you ask? Remember that for most of the past decade-plus in Congress (that is, when Republicans have controlled the House), Republicans have operated under the "Hastert Rule" of only bringing legislation to the House floor if it has the support of most of the Republican caucus. However, that did not happen last night. Instead, this bill passed despite most House Republicans opposing it. And in letting this happen, Boehner implicitly admitted that budget solutions can now be reached by actually reaching across the aisle for a change and bringing in Democratic votes (as opposed to simply grinding Congress to a halt just so he can engage in "tea party circle jerks").

This may be the key to unlocking the potential for better productivity in the new Congress. Both President Obama and Harry Reid sees it. We'll just have to see how long House Republicans try denying this "new rule"... And how long we will have to endure the next round of meaningless "tea party circle jerks" before something (else) is actually accomplished.

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