04.20.2011 Policy Points

No Real Bargain In The Works

Elizabeth Drew of The New York Review of Books doesn’t see a “Grand Bargain” as realistic outcome to the budget debate.

But the fact that such a huge fight occurred over spending for a mere twelve percent of the federal budget for just the remaining six months of this fiscal year was absurd. It was a situation made for political drama (and hoked-up television), since if an agreement hadn’t been reached by midnight, the federal government would have had to shut down. The fight over this spending bill was the budgetary Spanish Civil War: both sides were testing their skills and their weapons—and each other.

This relatively minor skirmish, in comparison to the ones that were to come, was nevertheless revealing about how Obama handles his role in shaping domestic policy with a divided Congress, one chamber dominated by conservative true believers. Tea Party members and other freshmen elected with its strong backing, were originally written off (and laughed at) as political amateurs, but, with the help of senior colleagues who joined up with them out of shared beliefs or opportunism, they ended up dominating the new Congress’s agenda, partly by default on Obama’s part. The Tea Party turned out to be a formidable political force because they are amateurs, inflexible and uncompromising.

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