The president won few concessions from Republicans and had to accept a compromise that could hurt his reelection chances
The details of the debt deal still being hammered out Sunday night allows the United States to avert an historic default if it survives tough votes in Congress. That's enough to bring great relief to the White House. But no cheers. The months-long melodrama leaves President Obama weakened politically and potentially constrained as a president.
Obama put the best spin possible on the deal when he announced it in the White House briefing room. But there's little good news for him and his party in what's immediately known about the framework of the compromise. The best hope for Democrats is that this will be like the deal worked out last December to keep government operating. As more details of that agreement became known, Democratic anger at the extension of the Bush tax cuts ebbed at the realization that they too had gotten things they wanted. But right now it's hard to see many victories the president can show to his party in this deal. He didn't get the "clean" increase he once demanded. He didn't get the "balance" (revenue increases) he demanded, though he insisted that taxes remain very much a part of the second phase of the bargain.
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He did get the Republicans to yield on his insistence on getting the ceiling raised high enough that this debate won't be repeated until after the 2012 presidential election. In achieving that, the president and the congressional leaders all but guarantee that next year's campaign will feature a large and perhaps unprecedented debate over spending and budget priorities and the relationship between government spending and job creation. That's a long overdue debate and, if conducted honestly, will allow the winner of the presidential election to claim a genuine mandate.