Monday, December 12, 2011

In Which It Looks Like I Was Wrong

I'm seeing a tweet just now following up on today's earlier reporting by WaPo's Rosalind Helderman that both chambers and both parties have reached an agreement on FY 2012 appropriations, thus averting a government shutdown that will happen if they can't pass something by the end of this week.

If that's correct, I need to point out that I've been dead wrong about this one from the start. I'm not going to go back and link to the (multiple) times I've blogged about this, but I've consistently said that this was an underreported story, and that there was a good chance of a stalemate followed by a shutdown. Now, I'm sure I qualified it every time -- I don't think I ever made an absolute prediction beyond saying that there was a good chance -- and so technically I didn't make a "prediction" that turned out wrong. But overall, yeah, I was wrong about this one.

Of course, part of this is that both parties agreed to live with the budget caps they agreed to in the debt limit deal. But that still left plenty of room for argument, either about the numbers for different programs within those caps or, where I thought the problem would come, in policy riders. Apparently House Republicans didn't insist on anything that Democrats in the Senate and the White House couldn't live with, although so far at least there's very little reporting on exactly what happened. The sense from Helderman's story, and some other things recently, is that with Tea Partiers in the House placing a higher priority on voting "no" on the whole thing than on bargaining for their (other?) priorities, John Boehner was able to just ignore them and strike a fairly easy deal. What that requires is for the rest of the Republicans to be willing to vote for something that the Tea Partiers were voting against...and that's been the sticking point on the other showdowns this year. But I guess this time the dangers of voting with Nancy Pelosi and against the most conservative Members of the House seemed less risky than the dangers of a government shutdown (which, to be sure, would eventually end, which would mean that they would have to vote for it, which would get them back to what they began with plus a shutdown, which may be why they didn't want one to begin with).

I apologize for that last sentence, too.

The big lesson here? John Boehner seems to know what he's doing. Still.


  1. Is it really Boehner who knows what he's doing, or one of the others involved in negotiating the August deal? I'm still gobstopped over how the Democrats turned the tables with that deal.

    The deal enforced the message that status quo (with a start on the spending cuts) was better than another fight like this. A lot of people in Congress got the message, not just the leadership.

    About your acknowledgement that you were wrong, it's great to hear anyone connected with politics say that.

  2. Maybe you apologized too soon.

    From TPM: "Dems to GOP: Deal Fairly on Payroll Tax or Shut the Government Down"

  3. @Mod
    But a big part of the reason to assume that a fall shutdown was likely was that it's of a different nature than a debt ceiling crisis. Stakes are lower and temporary shutdown of government services hurts Dem constituencies more than GOP ones, and it has less direct dire consequences for the financial system. Basically things were all lined up for them to use leverage against Obama in ways that worked well in early 2011 and even in August and probably would have worked just as well if not better now.

    I guess I'm surprised how much Tea Party fervor has dissipated, or rather surprised how that fervor has channeled itself into the primary season and wholly forgotten about real legislation.

  4. And thus in a sense JB remains correct: this is a big story. But now it's just that it's a story about the dog that didn't bark (but by all rights should have).

  5. @PF, Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly, but I thought all the stand-offs earlier this year ended with Obama angry, but having a continuing resolution passed. So, a very loud game of chicken.

    The only big deal was with the debt ceiling, and further debt ceiling increases are now a done deal. And there was a lesson there from the populace not to play chicken.

    Am I forgetting something? (a definite possibility).

  6. @ModeratePoli
    I see your point, but I also think judging this depends on what one thinks GOP leaders' true goals were. I think they accomplished their political goals, aimed at the 2012 election, quite well; passing policy measures seemed of secondary importance to them -- great if it happened, but not crucial.

    They didn't get major budget cuts passed, but they commanded the terrain of debate, were able to express deficit hawk political postures before their supporters, and significantly hurt the public's confidence in Obama by helping to stagnate the economy in the short-term. By July, the populace may have in some sense expressed dissatisfaction with games of chicken by everyone, but who cares if it's Obama who suffers the consequences come Nov 2012.

    These may be dubious wagers on the GOP leaders' part, but I think they're carrying out their partisan political plan quite well. This year-end standoff is just another opportunity for them to do it once again.


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