The stalemate is over, but the partisan clash over spending and borrowing has irrevocably shifted things in D.C. Here's how.
The debt crisis left in its circus-like wake five permanent truths.
Obama Signs Debt Deal
Pictures: Giffords Returns to Congress
Breaking Down the Debt-Deal Savings
1. A new precedent. Debt-ceiling increases are now tied to deficit reduction. With President Obama's signature, every future president until America's debt monster is tamed must come to Congress on bended knee and plead for the privilege of avoiding default. What had been an unhappy obligation of governance is now a lever to impose either spending cuts or tax increases in the pursuit of deficit reduction. A senior House Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee did not dispute this point. "We are bearing the burden of having to pass our own president's legislation." One side note: This episode also proves that the 14th Amendment's linkage to debt discussions is dead. Numerous House Democrats said off the floor on Monday that if there was ever a time to invoke the amendment and raise the debt ceiling, it was now. "I still hold out hope," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). "It's very important." Lee conceded, though, that her hopes are probably dashed and the issue is settled.
2. Bipartisan entitlement protection lives on. For all the GOP fervor to rein in government spending, the agreement defers all decisions about entitlement spending to a so-called super committee with an internal architecture almost built for stalemate. If that happens, Republicans who now crow about changing the way Washington works will see the knife of across-the-board spending cuts exempt Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, veterans benefits, food stamps, and other antipoverty entitlements. Yes, the automatic cuts can hit Medicare, but it won't touch beneficiaries. The cost-cutting can only reduce payments to providers--a scheme that Congress has tried over and over only to be undone by successful lobbying from doctors and hospitals. This means that the deal repeats a futile process that Congress has tried and abandoned before--achieving deficit reduction on the backs of well-connected and influential doctors and hospitals.