MILLER: Obama’s victory lap - Republicans routed in shutdown, Obamacare fight
Once again, President Obama routed congressional Republicans. He used zero political capital and got everything he wanted — Obamacare is untouched, deficit spending continues endlessly, the government is reopened and the the debt ceiling is raised.
But the White House victory is a disaster for America.
As the government technically reopened Thursday morning, the president showed that none of this fight was about principle for him. He called the shutdown both a “manufactured” and “self-inflicted” crisis. Actually, it was a genuine and organic crisis from citizens who did not want Obamacare implemented on Oct. 1.
This whole episode started with Sen. Ted Cruz demanding that Obamacare be defunded, delayed or somehow modified before Congress continues to fund the government. The Texas Republican found enormous grassroots support for his effort, and the conservative House GOP caucus quickly joined the effort.
As the shutdown went on, however, Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanded that spending for a continuing resolution negate the sequester and the budget law. They knew this would never fly, but they threw up this red herring to provide themselves with something to pretend to surrender in negotiations.
Republicans fell for it. This spending demand helped the White House take the focus off the original debate — the full implementation of Obamacare, despite the public’s anger about the biggest new entitlement program in 50 years.
Several real alterations to Obamacare were suggested and rejected — ending the medical device tax and forcing White House and congressional staff to go into the exchanges without a subsidy. The president wouldn’t give an inch.
In the end, the small concession to get moderate Republican votes was to require the secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that people getting government handouts for their health care qualified by income.
The GOP also gave up their upper hand over the debt limit.
Even though there were no payments due on Oct. 17, Mr. Obama told the world that the United States would “default” if he couldn’t borrow more money by that date. Republicans could have used this leverage to get something real — like postponing the individual mandate in Obamacare for a year or entitlement reform.
Part of the final deal was that the bicameral leaders of the budget committees would meet in a formal conference to come up with a joint budget for the coming year. While Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House committee, should be praised for trying to get some order to the spending mess, it is very unlikely this group will find a deal that both chambers can pass.
Just look at Mr. Obama’s first demand Thursday morning after signing the Senate deal. He called for Congress to come up with a “balanced approach to a responsible budget” — that’s his standard code for higher taxes and more spending.
The continuing resolution goes until mid-January, a date picked because the GOP wanted the funding to include next year’s sequestration cuts, at least temporarily. But the issue at hand was never spending.
Two week ago, the White House and both parties in Congress agreed not to break the Budget Control Act of 2011 that set spending at levels lower than Mr. Obama wanted at that time. (They called it a “spending cut,” but all it did was slow the increase.) That, in itself, was a small victory for conservatives.
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