Republicans got what they wanted

10/17/13
 
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by John Zelizer,

from CNN,
10/17/13:

With no time left on the clock, members of Congress finally reached a deal that would reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.

As the world watched Congress stumble and tumble toward the brink of default, Senate Democrats and Republicans finally agreed on a deal that gained enough support in the House to bring this episode to a close.

Some Democrats and pundits have concluded that Democrats are walking away the victors. They correctly argue that the Republican Party has become so damaged in the polls as a result of their hardball tactics that they are extremely vulnerable in the 2014 midterms and could very well suffer in the presidential election of 2016 as a result of these debates.

President Barack Obama also walks away from this deal with the Affordable Care Act generally intact, as conservative proposals to repeal the program recede further and further away from political reality.

But can Democrats really claim victory? Not really.

As the dust settles, Republicans might find themselves pretty content with the outcome of this battle. In terms of public policy, they have kept the President on the defensive and kept their main issue front and center.

Throughout much of the past month and a half, when the President hoped to return from the congressional recess to push the immigration bill through the House, all attention has centered on sequestration, repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting spending and avoiding fiscal catastrophe.

All of the other energy has been sucked out of Washington. Even with the current deal, the sequestration remains in effect, severely harming government agencies that have undergone cuts as well as those in desperate need of funding increases.

The battle has also been beneficial to Republicans in that they have continued the process of normalizing the use of radical tactics in pushing for cuts to the federal government.

Just as many Americans seemed to accept sequestration, conservative Republicans have not yet felt any serious political threat as a result of their having forced a government shutdown.

Nor is it clear that there will be any negative consequences to them for having gone to the brink of a federal default in their fight for concessions on the budget deal. If they are left standing, there is little reason to think that they won’t use these tactics once again. The last month offers them a template.

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