Last night John Boehner, President Barack Obama and a slew of other influential people in Congress managed to avoid a government shutdown and extend the funding of basic federal services until next Thursday.
This is fantastic news for veterans, those seeking visas and the millions of Americans who would’ve been extremely angry that their tax returns were delayed. However we in the politics game are into winners and losers, not feel good victories or avoidance of disaster. A few key players made moves tonight that will have long term consequences not just on their political capital in Washington, but their ability to get re-elected in 2012 too. While poll numbers aren’t in yet, and at this point there is still reason to believe that there aren’t future fights over the debt ceiling just around the corner, we can give out some preliminary grades on what happened, or didn’t happen last night and who was responsible.
President Obama: B
Obama played well with others and basically did what he always does; compromise like hell and ignore his own base and party. By all accounts the deal was struck by Obama, Beohner and Harry Reid; Pelosi and Clyburn must’ve lost their invitations. By punting the issue until next Thursday he managed to avoid a government shutdown which would have hurt the economy even over a short period of time. To earn an “A” Obama needed to show some leadership. Lots of liberals out there would’ve loved a weekend shutdown, just to stick it to Boehner and to show that Obama wasn’t willing to let the budget get balanced on the backs of the poor. That didn’t happen. However he didn’t get a “C” or “F” which would’ve been just caving to everything that the GOP base wanted right now. Heading into 2012 Obama remained focused on that which is most important, keeping the economy humming along and keeping those unemployment numbers steadily decreasing and a functioning government is key to that goal. He also basically saved the job of the one Republican that he can work with in the House right now, John Boehner, which brings us to our second grade.
John Boehner: B+
Boehner pulled off the tri-fecta this week, which he deserves credit for. He managed to avoid a shutdown which would’ve just tanked the GOP’s approval nationally, he looked like he was standing up to Obama and at the same time he staved off the inevitable Tea Party coup de etat that Eric Cantor is planning for him the moment he slips up. Not a bad job for a guy who is viewed as a tanned crybaby by many in the public.
Boehner didn’t get an “A” because while he saved the day, he didn’t satisfy his own base in the Tea Party movement. The fact is that Tea Partier’s are actually far out of wack with the general public in their desire for a shutdown and their policy stubbornness has led to threats of a primary challenger on Beohner. Which will only increase the influence of our third politics student.
Michelle Bachmann: A-
If you can get high marks for essentially doing nothing and still move mountains, you just might have a political future in Washington. Bachmann who is head of the Tea Party Caucus just flexed her muscles during this shutdown debate and is steadily working to make Americans forget that the previous queen of the Tea Party Caribou Barbie Palin ever existed. While Bachmann says some crazy things, she has managed her role as Tea Party leader in the new Congress well, her well timed Tweet at 5:00 p.m. on Friday “I am ready for a big fight that will change the arc of history. The current fight in Washington is not that fight,” essentially did two things. First she set the agenda for the GOP in Congress in 140 characters and two she saved Boehner’s bacon. The Tea Party queen quelled the dogs for a time giving Boehner the ability to negotiate with Obama without looking like a weakling. She may be crazy but she’s certainly focused. Unlike the recipients of our final grade.
Congress, Republicans and Democrats already have horrible approval numbers in most polls so I’m not adding much new here but the handling of this budget crisis is just another example of how our two party system and our electoral processes are failing the American public. Time and time again, the public speaks in a pretty clear voice about what polices they want and Congress is swayed by a loud minority or even worse, just plain old money. The majority of Americans wanted a public option, Dems in Congress gave up on it when they had a majority. The majority of Americans did NOT want a shutdown but Republicans almost trashed the entire economy over symbolic dislike of Planned Parenthood. One of these election cycles members of Congress are finally going to get it through their skulls that the best policy options are those that the public wants, not just their constituents, and not just whoever is giving them the most campaign donations. That lesson wasn’t learned last night but perhaps in the future it will be.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the headline “Government Shutdown Report Card: Who Won, Who Lost and Who Needs More Time.”