By delaying the sequester cuts for two months, McConnell’s forced them to coincide with the debt ceiling fight. By then, the president won’t have expiring tax cuts or the end-of-the-year media attention to hold over Republicans, and without that — especially after striking a deal and accepting the president’s position on taxes — McConnell will be able to control the coming conversation on spending cuts and overhauling entitlements. Obama got his New Year’s victory, goes the thinking, but now McConnell will be in charge for the rest of 2013.

“This is Obama’s high point in the second term,” said Grover Norquist, the patron saint of refusing to raise taxes. “The next four years are the Republicans … chipping away at his spending, and that’s a fight where independents side with the Rs on a regular basis.”

Without a deal now, Senate Republicans feared a post-cliff Obama would be able to declare himself the nation’s leading tax cutter…

But the White House isn’t worried. Instead, it’s crowing about how far Republicans moved on taxes and pointing to the deal as evidence Obama will be able to win new revenue increases in upcoming negotiations. During the 2011 debt limit fight, Republicans sniffed at closing corporate jet loopholes worth a few billion dollars. Eighteen months later, they agreed to a deal that increased revenue $620 billion while cutting only $12 billion in government spending.