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.
Instead, they got scared by the artificial deadline and ceded all negotiating to the consummate dealmakers — Mr. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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.
Next, the so-called supercommittee tasked with finding another $1 trillion in deficit reduction failed to agree because Democrats demanded higher taxes and Republicans wanted entitlement reform. Neither side budged, so the trillion or so was cut, mostly across the board, over a 10-year period. The sequestration has helped keep spending a little lower since them.
Two years ago, I wrote a column titled "Obama's Slam Dunk," about the deal for raising the debt ceiling last time. My point was that a cut in the growth of spending doesn't do much to tackle the real debt crisis and the entitlement programs that are driving it.
The staff in Republican leadership offices were so angry that they cut me off from their press release lists. They turned away when I walked down the halls in the Capitol.
If you don't like the message, shoot the messenger.
Of course, Republicans are in the minority, so they have limited power. But they should have let the arbitrary debt-ceiling date pass to force the president to make some consolation about the wrecking ball that is Obamacare.
Mr. Obama, once again, won the fight over the size and scope of government. More spending, bigger debts, more control in Washington and a health care entitlement program hitting with full force. He may be celebrating, but it's a hollow victory because so many will suffer the consequences.
Emily Miller is a senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of "Emily Gets Her Gun" (Regnery, 2013).
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