After sending financial markets and American public into gyrations, the U.S. Congress finally struck a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, pending approval in the Senate and House. Of all the winners and losers, 71-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stands to gain the most facing a tough primary fight against Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. Despite McConnell’s rocky relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), politics makes strange bedfellows joining forces to cut a deal with Nevada’s senior senator. Agreeing to fund the government until Jan. 14, 2014 and extend the debt ceiling to Feb. 7, McConnell got in bed with the enemy to save his political hide. Had he continued the game of chicken with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Bevin might have ended McConnell’s bid for a sixth term.
Letting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) take the political heat, McConnell smartly departed with the House’s Tea Party band of Obama-haters to end a PR nightmare for the Republican Party. “This has been a long challenging few weeks for Congress and for the country," said McConnell, admitting that the GOP strategy to threatening to default the government backfired. “It’s my hope that today we can put some of the most urgent issues behind us,” said McConnell, no doubt irking the Tea Party before Boehner forces the Senate bill up for a full House vote. While some worry that Boehner might lose his job, it’s doubtful the upstart Tea Party has the audacity to mutiny against the 64-year-old House speaker. When McConnell refers to the “most urgent” issues, he’s referring to the Tea Party’s attempt to delay or stop Obamacare. Nothing in the Senate deal does anything of the sort.
Sounding a more conciliatory tone, the otherwise insurgent Cruz left no doubt that he would not try to delay the vote. “I have no objections to the timing and the reason is simple: There’s nothing gained from delaying this vote one day or two days,” said Cruz, finally making some sense. Cruz sounded less logical Sept. 24 when the wasted 21-hours trying to de-fund Obamacare but backing wholeheartedly the Oct. 1 government shutdown. Republicans argue the shutdown was due to Obama’s refusal to come to the bargaining table. Obama didn’t like the GOP strong-arm tactics threatening to de-fund the government and debt ceiling to win concessions on Obamacare. While not backing the McConnell’s heroic efforts at compromise, Cruz steps out to the way to begin rehabbing his damaged credibility. Cruz sends chills through independent voters, driven far away from the GOP.
Cruz’s 21-hour rant Sept. 24 was supposed to highlight the Tea Party’s last ditch attempt to stop Obamacare from implementing Insurance exchanges to sell policies over the Internet. Instead of explaining why he objected to Obamacare, Cruz, a Princeton University and Harvard Law School graduate, chose to spend his time reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” into the Congressional record. Neither he nor any other member of the Tea Party, including his colleague 52-year-old Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), can explain why Obamacare is bad for the country. Before signed into law March 21, 2010, by President Barack Obama, the GOP insisted it was socialized medicine, a government takeover of health care. When details emerged that it simply involved the government requiring or buying health insurance policies for the uninsured, the GOP shifted the message to busing the budget.
When the White House showed how the country would pay for the costly new government entitlement, the GOP said it was unconstitutional to insist that every American carry health insurance. Even after the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ruled June 28, 2012 [5-4] that Obamacare was constitutional, the Tea Party continued to fume about the legislation. Yet when Cruz had the chance Sept. 24, not a peep about why Obamacare was bad for the country: Only platitudes about how Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would destroy the country. It’s one thing to argue it could bust the federal budget but failing to cite credible studies from health care experts or economists about Obamacare’s expected deleterious effects didn’t help the Tea Party’s cause. If Congress came together to improve Obamacare, they could stop insurance companies from price gouging.
Waiting to the 11th hour to cut a deal gives Congress a big black eye in the public’s mind. If Boehner had control over the Tea Party all along, he shouldn’t have used them to play “good-cop, bad-cop” against the White House. If there’s any lesson to learn for next time, it’s that Obama needs to be more engaged with House GOP leadership. Telling the House it’s “his way or the highway,” Obama antagonized too many of the opposition, determined to show their power by forcing the White House to the bargaining table. Boehner tried to tell Obama “it’s not the way things are done around here,” referring to the president’s refusal to come to the table. At the same time, Boehner played the zealous Tea Party for fools, eventually forcing a full House vote on the Senate’s objectionable legislation. While Obamacare goes on, Wall Street and the public were put through the wringer for no reason.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.