Will the Senate deal fly with the House rank and file?
posted at 8:01 am on October 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Today appears to be Deal Day, when the Senate leadership in both parties hammers a way out of the budget impasse that avoids the October 17th debt-ceiling deadline and puts an end to the two-week federal government shutdown. The negotiators already have the deal largely locked in place, ABC News reports, but now both sides have to sell it to their rank and file. John Boehner might have the toughest job selling it to his House caucus, although Senate Republicans will see it first:
A tentative breakthrough in negotiations among congressional leaders to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling faces a major test today: approval from the rank and file members of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., worked through the weekend and into this week hammering out the details of a potential compromise. But the fine print of the proposal will face the judgment of Republican lawmakers in the Senate this morning. …
On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the Tea Party charge in the Senate, said he would reserve judgment until he knew the full details of a potential agreement.
“I want to wait to see what the details are,” Cruz said.
And a potential deal could face an uphill battle in the House of Representatives.
No one’s likely to be terribly happy with the deal in any of the four caucuses, although Democrats might not yet realize it. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown reports that everyone has to give a little in the deal and that Barack Obama’s “clean bill” demand is dead, but that Republicans have to give most:
There would be minor changes to the president’s signature health care law. The White House and Democratic leaders will argue the Obamacare provisions were a one-for-one proposition — each party got a fix to the Affordable Care Act — and did not come as the price for raising the debt limit or restarting the government, according to Democratic officials involved in the talks.
The Obamacare provisions risk muddying the president’s message, but the changes are so negligible that even House Republicans are grumbling that it’s a clean debt limit increase.
Even if the potential Senate deal survives in the House — still very much an open question — Obama would soon be back fighting the next round with Republicans. The debt limit increase would last almost four months. It’s less than what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wanted, but longer than what House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested. And the next debt limit hike wouldn’t be contingent upon a budget deal, as Boehner proposed. …
McConnell, however, is preparing to make a pitch to his conference that Republicans would get plenty out of the deal.
They kept Obama from winning his “clean” debt limit increase by extracting an Obamacare concession. They rebuffed Democratic demands for a year-long debt limit extension. Republicans also secured sequester spending levels through Jan. 15 — two months longer than Democrats first proposed, although shorter than what Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) had wanted as a way to lock in next year’s even-deeper spending cuts under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“Total federal spending has now gone down for two years in a row — the first time that’s happened since the Korean War,” McConnell said. “As a result of the BCA: federal spending will be lower next year than this year. It is, without question, the most significant spending reduction in modern history and Senate Republicans will not accept anything that that undoes these cuts.”
But Democrats think the House-Senate budget negotiations mandated under the deal would give them a decent shot at renegotiating the sequester. And they’re hoping that Republicans will be motivated to avert next year’s cuts, which disproportionately hit defense spending.
Republicans will end up with the short end of the deal because (a) they have the short end of power by only controlling the House, and (b) they chose a strategy with no chance of success. That leaves them with very little bargaining power. Byron York presented an intriguing counterfactual on that point Sunday, a what-if on strategic decisions long past:
[T]here was an enormous amount of bad news about Obamacare. And it was coming October 1. Of course, Republicans did not know the specific problems that would plague the website once the administration attempted to bring Obamacare online, but the GOP knew that, in general, what was coming would be bad. So what if Republicans had put together a major campaign of ads, events, townhalls, speeches, hearings, web documentaries, publications, tweets, handouts, and more, involving Republican officials from the local level to influential governors to top leaders in Congress, to showcase the problems of Obamacare as October 1 approached?
What if that had been the theme of the August recess? And in September, there began to appear stories of Americans who buy their coverage on the individual market receiving letters from insurers telling them they would no longer have coverage, or that the price of their coverage would go up substantially. More stories for the Obamacare campaign: here was the living, breathing proof that Obama’s if-you-like-your-coverage-you-can-keep-it pledge was false. Of course, Obama said that many times, often on video, so Republicans could have made plenty of ads, for the Internet and perhaps some for broadcast too, juxtaposing Obama’s promise with yet another family who had lost coverage.
And then came October 1. After that date arrived, Republicans would have had a true embarrassment of riches when it came to material for the anti-Obamacare campaign. Millions of people tried, and failed, to log into the Obamacare website; lots of stories there. And what about the tales of pathetically small numbers of Americans who actually succeeded in signing up for coverage? For example, there was a report that five people in all of Iowa had signed up; that state’s GOP leaders could have been enlisted to make sure everyone knew that. …
But it didn’t happen. The GOP chose instead to embark on its ill-fated drive to defund Obamacare. When that failed, Republicans made progressively weaker demands that the White House delay or somehow limit Obamacare, and those failed, too. In the meantime, the Republican effort has led to a partial shutdown of the government, now nearly two weeks old. And the shutdown battle has morphed into a fight over the debt limit and the possibility the nation will default on its debts next Thursday.
This cloud has a silver lining, though. Whatever deal gets made will mean that, after a spate of media stories about federal workers returning to work and markets settling down for the next few months on the debt ceiling, the attention will shift back to the ObamaCare exchanges and the sticker shock (more on this later). That’s why Democrats who feel they won a short-term win in this deal will only celebrate for a minimal period, because as soon as the shutdown and debt ceiling are off the front pages, the incompetence and massive new costs in ObamaCare will replace them.