I've been seeing a lot of gloating from the left on the last spending deal turning out to represent a net rise in spending. But isn't this a repeated game? Maybe I'm just a nervous nellie, but this strikes me as something that significantly narrows the opening that any deal made in the next few weeks has to thread - and, alas, we seem to need such a deal somewhat soon. How much leash will his caucus give Boehner in the wake of it becoming clear that the more TPish members got snookered?That's a good question, and I'm not sure I know the answer. But I'll take a crack at it...
On the one hand, I think there's an equilibrium available that involves GOP Members pretending that they're getting what they were elected to do (but which, in some forms, would get them in lots of trouble with the electorate if they really did it). That is: if you assume that spending cuts are popular in the abstract but specific cuts are unpopular, and that no one actually cares about the deficit, then the best plan for Members of Congress is to convince everyone that "cuts" have happened without, you know, actually cutting spending. The traditional way of doing that is to design and pass gimmicks that allow everyone to pretend that they've solved the problem. But phantom cuts should work just as well, as far as I can see.
On the other hand, there's also an incentive for loudmouth Members (and movement conservative media) to declare that anything that Boehner agrees to is not enough. After all, everybody hates Congress and is eager to believe the worst about them, and Boehner in particular is hardly a Tea Party hero.
The thing is, it's not clear to me that phantom spending cuts (if that's what happened here) change that calculus. That's because I'm assuming that the incentives for rogue Members and talk show hosts have nothing at all to do with actual spending levels or, even less likely, deficit levels. They have to do with broader incentives within movement conservative political culture -- they have to do with the way attention (and money) are given within the conservative network, and how people (customers?) there demand extremism for its own sake, not based on careful policy analysis.
So whatever Boehner does, he has to worry about dissent from the right. If that's the case, he has to spend a whole lot of time tending to it, but it really doesn't affect his decisions.
What would affect his decisions is if there are Members who honestly care, and really want, specific cuts. My guess, however, is that those are in the minority within the GOP conference. That's not to say that all Members of Congress are merely interested in reelection and don't care at all about policy, but that's not really what's at stake here; one way or another, the general policy direction is the same. But as far as the details are concerned, it sure seems to me that Boehner's solution, intended or not, should be one that keeps his conference relatively happy -- if it holds. That is, as long as it's plausible to pretend that they're slashing spending.