Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brinksmanship Post-Mortem

When Boehner cancelled the vote Tuesday night, Josh Barro said House Republicans Show Themselves To Be Dangerously Incompetent, Again. "'The only stunning thing is that anyone still looks at House Republicans and says: "You know what would be great? Giving these people more power over public policy.' Roughly one-third of this caucus thinks hitting the debt ceiling and shutting down the government are great strategies to try to stop Obamacare. The other two-thirds of the party has realized all along that this strategy sucks, but they could not find any way to stop their party from implementing it — even though these "reasonable" Republicans outnumber the crazies."

Ezra Klein thinks, If Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Democrats would have to invent him. "A true cynic about American politics would, at this point, be forced to one conclusion: Sen. Ted Cruz is a Democratic sleeper agent." and lists 7 dumb things he's done that have backfired.

Democrats managed to get the budget conference they've been pursuing for six months. They got a CR of the length they wanted and ending before the next sequestration cuts rather than six-month CR that Sen. Susan Collins proposed. They got a debt-ceiling increase all the way into February. This is far beyond what Democrats thought possible on Sept. 30.

But the strategy Ted Cruz managed to force on the GOP was so suicidal that Democrats felt comfortable forcing Republicans to cave completely. They were so confident that they managed to reject a deal proposed by Sen. Susan Collins and supported by many Senate Democrats because it funded the government for longer than the Democratic leadership preferred. That's a level of control over the outcome that Democrats never expected to have.

Brad Plumer looked at a Study: Congress’s budget battles have cost the economy $700 billion so far "Here's an eye-catching claim: A new report from Macroeconomic Advisers argues that Congress's budget battles, debt-ceiling stand-offs, and spending cuts have cost the U.S. economy nearly 3 percent of GDP since 2010. That's roughly $700 billion in lost economic activity and more than two million lost jobs— all thanks to Congress. And that's before we even factor in the losses caused by the recent federal government shutdown." He mentions a few doubts, but I think he generally agrees with it.

Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks this was a fiasco. Review & Outlook: The Debt Denouement "This is the quality of thinking—or lack thereof—that has afflicted many GOP conservatives from the beginning of this budget showdown. They picked a goal they couldn't achieve in trying to defund ObamaCare from one House of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn't sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit. President Obama called their bluff, no doubt in part to blame the disruption on the GOP and further tarnish the party's public image. Now the most Republicans will get out of this is lower public approval and a chance to negotiate with Mr. Obama again before the next debt-limit deadline."

I'm no fan of Peter King (R-NY) but it's fun watching this, Pete King calls for a Republican war on Ted Cruz.

Jonathan Chait celebrates, Stop Fretting: The Debt-Ceiling Crisis Is Over!.

Most of the analysis has focused on the mind-boggling stupidity of Republicans in Congress, who blundered into a debacle that failed in exactly the way they were warned it would. The episode will be retold and fought over for years to come, perfectly emblemizing the party’s internal disorganization, mindless belligerence, and confinement within an ideological echo chamber that sealed out important warnings of failure. A grassroots revolt forced Republicans to shut down the government two weeks before the debt ceiling deadline, serving to weaken the party's standing at the moment they hoped to hold the default gun to Obama's head. (It's possible they lesson they'll take away from their failure will only be not to shut down the government and threaten default at the same time, requiring another showdown.)

But it also represents a huge Democratic success — or, at least, the closest thing to success that can be attained under the circumstances. Of the Republican Party’s mistakes, the most rational was its assumption that Democrats would ultimately bend. This was not merely their own recycled certainty — “nobody believes that,” a confident Paul Ryan insisted of Obama’s claims he wouldn’t be extorted — but widespread, world-weary conventional wisdom. Democrats would have to pay a ransom. Republicans spent weeks prodding for every weakness. Would Senate Democrats from deep red states be pried away? Would Obama fold in the face of their threat?

Part of what undergirded Democratic unity went beyond a (correct) calculation that it would be dangerous to pay any ransom at all. Democrats seemed to share a genuine moral revulsion at the tactics and audacity of a party that had lost a presidential election by 5 million votes, lost another chance to win a favorable Senate map, and lost the national House vote demanding the winning party give them its way without compromise.

Probably the single biggest Republican mistake was in failing to understand the way its behavior would create unity in the opposing party. Not until the very end, when the crisis was well under way, did any conservatives even acknowledge the Democratic view that the GOP had threatened basic governing norms. Ted Cruz and his minions may have undertaken a hopeless crusade, but they dragged along the Paul Ryan Republicans who all along seemed to think their extortion scheme was a simple business deal. Its collapse is one of the brightest days Washington has seen in a grim era.

Ed Kilgore doesn't quite agree, Two Cheers For the SWAT Team. "I’d raise three cheers for the SWAT team, but aside from the possibility Chait raises that GOPers will learn the wrong lesson, there’s the concession of sequester-level appropriations that was made early and stayed at least temporarily (until January 15 or an unlikely earlier budget deal) in the final agreement, and the failure—understandable but still troublesome—to find some permanent way of keeping debt default threats from happening (via either a change in the congressional rules for dealing with them or a presidential adoption of one of the various “constitutional options” that Obama has eschewed). Beyond that, I’m not sure I agree Democrats bravely refused to “negotiate with terrorists,” insofar as they did entertain concessions and are entering budget talks under the possible threat of another shutdown or debit limit breach."

My hope is that to prove the lunacy, we will hear more stories like this one (and not create more of them), The government shutdown wasn’t that bad for the politicians. It was terrible for this guy. "'I was living week to week' before the shutdown, Anderson told me. 'Now I'm living day to day.' He is a line cook at the American Indian Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall. Anderson is not a government employee. He's a contract worker - the government hires his company to make the food for visitors to the museum. When the shutdown closed the museum, Anderson lost his job. He'll now presumably be able to go back to work, but unlike federal workers, he won't get back pay. And he could use that back pay: Anderson is a divorced father of two who usually brings home about $350 a week after taxes and child support."

Robert Costa has a fascinating interview with Mitch McConnell. He's often very candid in his statements (remember him saying their primary goal was to make Obama a one term President?) but you also have to read between the political lines. Meanwhile, Harry Reid Says Hiking Defense Spending For Social Security Cuts Is A 'Stupid Trade'. Yup the positioning has begun.

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