Obama 1, GOP 0
It's back to business in Washington, D.C., after a partial government shutdown that led to entirely too much real and manufactured drama.
After more than two weeks of sound and fury, congressional Democrats and Republicans passed and President Obama signed legislation that, while not signifying nothing, didn't amount to much.
So what was all this shutdown/debt ceiling hoopla about?
House Republicans sought to use the politics of intransigence to force a defunding of Obamacare. By refusing to pass legislation funding the government and threatening to block an increase in the debt ceiling, they tried — and failed — to win concessions from a president who stated repeatedly that he not only rejected their proposals but would not even discuss them.
In the end, President Obama won an increase in the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 and funding for the government through Jan. 15. He resisted not only major changes in Obamacare, but also smaller efforts to repeal taxes on existing health insurance plans sought by his friends in organized labor and a GOP effort to delay or eliminate an Obamacare tax on medical devices.
The only fig leaf of victory the GOP can claim is a joint House/Senate effort led by Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to reach some sort of accord on a plan to cut federal spending and revise the tax code. Given the fundamental differences between Obama and Republicans on both of those issues, it's hard to see much of substance forthcoming.
There is no doubt that Republicans took it on the chin. That's why Obama is gloating even as he states that there were "no winners" in this face-off. Of course there was a winner — Obama.
The GOP, like all losers looking for an explanation, now is searching for scapegoats, and some of their more zealous members are blaming so-called moderates — actually, they're conservatives — for not standing by the shutdown.
The most conservative are calling the less conservative the "surrender caucus." But the less conservative could call the more conservative the "can't count" caucus, and here's why.
The House may be majority Republican, but the Senate and the White House are controlled by the Democrats. Sweeping victories require more than controlling one-half of one-third of the federal government.
House Republicans didn't have the votes to force the changes they sought. Instead of holding their fire and concentrating on winning more seats in the next election, Republicans launched a suicide charge with all-too-predictable results.
Democrats had the stronger hand. The minority party nonetheless demanded surrender on Obama's signature achievement and then were forced to steadily give up ground until they had none left to stand on.
It's long been apparent that both the Democratic and Republican parties have a suicide wing, although they are not always simultaneously on display. The all-or-nothing types prefer the glory of a noble defeat, as they see it, to anything approaching a compromise victory. They are the kind who still see Pickett's charge as a glorious effort.
Fortunately for the GOP, this fiasco will not be fatal. America's attention span is too short. A month ago, the public and the pundits were pillorying President Obama over his maladroit handling of Syria and its use of poison gas. A month from now, there'll be something else — perhaps the inept rollout and stunning costs of Obamacare — to draw public attention and scorn.
It is, however, imperative that Republicans learn from their mistakes if they wish to be trusted by a majority of the voters. Democrats are praying they don't learn a thing.