After a now 16-day government shutdown, House Republicans have all but given up. Reports indicate that Speaker John Boehner will put the Senate compromise proposal on the floor for a vote. And President Obama didn't have to agree to the Tea Party's legislative demands to get here. After the 2011 debt-ceiling debacle, Obama told his advisers he wouldn't negotiate on the debt ceiling again, and it seems like that gamble is paying off.
Obama did make concessions in 2011. But The New York Times' Jackie Calmes explains that even as the 2011 fight was still going on, Obama became "determined to undo the precedent he had set by making concessions." He called five advisers into his office and "told them, in a way that brooked no discussion: From now on, no more negotiating over legislation so basic and essential to the economy, and the country." As the shutdown wore on and the debt limit deadline grew closer, Obama stayed mostly out of public view. It was the White House's strategy to let the focus remain on congressional deal-making, Bloomberg News reports. In 2011, high-profile negotiations with Boehner, which failed, hurt Obama's ability to advance his agenda, advisors concluded. Bloomberg reports, "Obama’s aides question whether Boehner... can deliver on any deal struck with the White House this time because of dissent within his party."
The result? The only concession Obama makes in the Senate deal (if it passes) is that there will be stricter income verification for those requesting subsidies for their healthcare packages under Obamacare. This doesn't hurt Obamacare, which was the GOP's goal. It doesn't change the law, it just increases enforcement of the law. Obama said in a TV interview on Tuesday, "I’m pretty sure they’re not going to run this play again."
Obama repeated again and again over the past few weeks that he would not be extorted or negotiate "with a gun to my head." Republicans tested this, obviously. House Appropriations chair Hal Rogers joked that this red line would be no stronger than the one Obama drew on Syria. Now that the strategy has failed, will the GOP believe him next time? After all, the Senate deal will only keep the government open until January and raise the debt ceiling through February. New York's Jonathan Chait writes:
We can’t be certain Republicans will never hold the debt ceiling hostage again; but Obama has now held firm twice in a row, and if he hasn’t completely crushed the Republican expectation that they can extract a ransom, he has badly damaged it. Threatening to breach the debt ceiling and failing to win a prize is costly behavior for Congress — you anger business and lose face with your supporters when you capitulate. As soon as Republicans come to believe they can’t win, they’ll stop playing.
At least in this fight, the GOP is not going to win — Boehner simply couldn't bring the House GOP together to vote on their own plan.
The government shutdown accomplished nothing in terms of policy and was damaging and embarrassing for the country. But crucially, it probably convinced the GOP not to try it again anytime soon.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.