President Obama got most of what he wanted Wednesday in the short-term deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s borrowing limit, but the shutdown confrontation showed that the Republican “fever” against him is still running high.
The president demanded that congressional Republicans end the 16-day shutdown and raise the debt ceiling without conditions. Although Mr. Obama had vowed not to negotiate, he did give a little by accepting a proposal to require increased income monitoring of people who apply for Obamacare health insurance subsidies.
The terms of the deal also threaten to further complicate Mr. Obama’s second-term agenda, because the agreement sets up another potential budget confrontation with Congress in only three months’ time. The deal funds government operations — at sequester levels opposed by Mr. Obama — only until Jan. 15.
And the government’s borrowing authority expires again Feb. 7; Mr. Obama had wanted to push back that deadline until after the 2014 elections.
On Wednesday night, just minutes after the Senate approved the deal, the president wasted little time in pivoting away from the budget and debt-ceiling crisis and toward looming negotiations over federal spending, entitlement programs and taxes.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that’s been lost over the last few weeks. We can begin to do that by addressing the real issues they care about,” Mr. Obama said during remarks in the White House press briefing room. “With the shutdown behind us and budget committees forming, we now have the opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hard-working people all across this country.”
But the president’s optimism could be for naught if lawmakers find themselves at yet another impasse heading toward the Jan. 15 deadline.
“The biggest problem for the president is that we’re right back at this in three months,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist and former top congressional aide. “Every time this is on the table, it almost puts him in handcuffs. Maybe at a tactical level it’s a victory, but at a strategic level it’s kind of a mess.”
When he ran for re-election last year, Mr. Obama said he hoped his victory would break what he called the Republican “fever” that was fueling his opponents to block his initiatives, vowing in particular not to enter negotiations again to raise the federal debt ceiling as he did in the summer of 2011. But 10 months into his second term, Mr. Obama is still looking for the cure.
Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who agitated for the shutdown in an effort to gut Obamacare, said Wednesday that he and his tea party allies have only begun to fight.
“This fight, this debate will continue until collectively the American people can make D.C. listen, can get real relief for all of the people who are hurt because of Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who forged the compromise with Majority Leader Harry Reid to end the shutdown, said the president’s signature health care law remains a top target for the GOP.
“This law is ravaging our economy, killing jobs, driving up premiums, and driving people off the health care plans they have, and like, in droves,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican who is up for re-election next year. “Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law.”
Asked if Mr. Obama believes his victory in ending the shutdown had broken the GOP “fever,” White House press secretary Jay Carney indicated the White House is under no such illusions.
With major priorities such as immigration reform and climate change policy still on Mr. Obama’s agenda, Mr. Carney said the president doesn’t plan to alter his tactics in dealing with Republican lawmakers.
The president himself reiterated that Wednesday night.
“My hope and expectation is everybody has learned there’s no reason we can’t work on the issues at hand, why we can’t disagree between the parties while still being agreeable and make sure we’re not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements,” Mr. Obama said.
And while public opinion polls show that Republicans took the most blame for the shutdown, Mr. Feehery said nobody in Washington emerged from the crisis smelling sweeter.
“I don’t think this is a complete victory for Obama,” he said. “Anytime there’s this kind of dysfunction in the government, and this kind of vitriol, I don’t think it’s good for the president.”
• Ben Wolfgang contributed to this report.