Shutdown Showdown: Fat Lady Only Warming Up

The two men most responsible for the shutdown debacle ran up the white flag today.  Both come out of this big losers in stature and influence.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has spent weeks pressing for the shutdown showdown; after failing to get his Senate colleagues to follow his lead, he turned to his fellow Tea Party followers and ultra-conservatives in the House.  And they followed him toward the cliff, putting partisan politics above the national interest. 

Speaker John Boehner, who has said all along he did not want a shutdown or missing the deadline for raising the debt ceiling, buckled under to a very vocal minority in his House Republican caucus, and emerged as one of the big losers.  A leader who would not or could not lead, the dog wagged by the proverbial tail.  He let the crisis drag out to the very last minute by failing to stand up to the hard right in his party. 

Finally it was up to Senate Republicans to cut a deal with the Democrats as Boehner looked on, unable to reach a consensus within his own caucus much less in the House.

Boehner accepted the Senate compromise; it is not clear whether he can get a majority of his fellow Republicans to vote for it. 

And what does this deal accomplish?  Damn little.  All it really does is put off the confrontation until early next year.  The deal worked out in the Senate is just a temporary measure, funding the government and lifting the debt ceiling only until early next year, when we could go through this whole thing again.

“Basically we’re ending up where we started,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).  “We came really close to the edge to the cliff for really nothing.”  “The people who ran this show, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party, were ready to do great harm to the nation.”

The GOP brand suffered great damage, and it was all self-inflicted wounds.  Republican hopes of taking over the Senate in next year’s mid-term elections are fading fast and the party’s hold on its House majority may be in trouble as well.  Public approval of the Republican party is an unprecedented low of 24 percent, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. 

Cruz, who opposed the compromise and declared he speaks for the American people, is a big loser among his Senate colleagues, who were never much impressed to begin with and are now openly hostile to him, especially after he trashed them today for not doing as he wanted. He may be a big loser in Washington and nationally, but not among Tea Partiers, who he will be looking to for money and votes if, as expected, he decides to run for president in 2016.

Republicans took the national budget hostage and as ransom demanded that President Obama agree to defund and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, his landmark legislative achievement. Anyone with an ounce of grey matter would know that it wouldn’t work.

Republicans went into this confrontation with no plan, no strategy and no escape route, choosing to pursue a blatantly political agenda at the expense of the public interest. Standard & Poors Wednesday estimated the Republican shutdown showdown cost the economy $24 billion.

Jewish Republicans kept a very low profile.  Fred Zeidman, a major Jewish GOP moneyman, told JTA, “My party has magnificently grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.”  He said he opposes Obamacare, but “Am I going to shut down the country over it?  Never.”

Republicans started out intent on repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Prior to this crisis House Republicans voted 41 separate times to dismember a law that had been passed by both Houses, signed into law, upheld by the Courts, and validated as a major issue in last year’s president election.  But the fight isn’t over.  The Fat Lady isn’t singing, just humming a sour note.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.