The dirty deal has been done. By a “bipartisan” vote of 81-18, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday afternoon approved a bill to raise the debt ceiling and end the partial shutdown of the Federal government. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Republican leader in the Senate, joined Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in crafting the compromise.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who led the battle to defund Obamacare, said that he would not try to prevent a vote on the measure. I’m sure he and his colleagues in this fight, especially Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have gotten tired of being portrayed as “terrorists” and “extremists,” even by people in their own party, as they tried to fight for principle.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wasted no time in waving the white flag of surrender. He said there was simply no point in continuing the battle. “We fought the good fight; we just didn’t win,” he said. He later added, “There’s no reason for our members to vote ‘no’ today.” Later that evening, the House passed the Senate bill by a vote of 285-144.
Barack Obama couldn’t help chortling. The President said he would sign the legislation as soon as it reached his desk, adding: “We’ll begin reopening the government immediately.”
The measure allows the government to continue borrowing money, but just through Feb. 7. You can bet that the Obama Administration will blow past the $17 trillion debt ceiling in a matter of days (if not hours). But it won’t be able to continue the spending spree after Feb. 7, unless and until they can get Congress to agree to raise the debt ceiling again.
The measure also funds all of government, including Obamacare, as the President demanded — but only until Jan. 15. The measure requires House and Senate negotiators to get together and produce a longer-term budget and deficit-reduction plan. They have until Dec. to wave their magic wands and conjure up something both sides can support.
So is this the ignominious defeat for conservatives that it’s being portrayed by the left? Not on your life! All this compromise has done is kick the can down the road for a bit. Boehner himself acknowledged this when he said: “I know this isn’t everything we want, but we’re going to live to fight another day.”
The battle isn’t over — not by a long shot.
Meanwhile, let me mention two events this past weekend that dramatically illustrate the huge gulf dividing this country. One was a glimpse of the best of our past; the other was a frightening look at a possible future.
The encouraging one took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where White House operatives have tried repeatedly to shut down the World War II memorial. Once again, some elderly members of the Greatest Generation stormed the barricades that had been erected to keep them out. They were joined by younger veterans of more recent conflicts, many of them marching on prosthetic limbs.
Not only did they push the barricades aside, in a marvelous demonstration of a “we’ve had enough” spirit, they carried them down the street and stacked them up in front of the White House. One marcher stuck a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in the ground. Another added a hand-painted sign, “Return to Sender.”
Aren’t you delighted to see people refusing to put up with the petty shenanigans of our would-be masters, who want to make the government’s partial shutdown as painful as possible?
That is the feel-good story I wanted to share. The other one is not nearly as uplifting. It took place in Louisiana, where thanks to a computer glitch, people using the debit cards that have replaced food stamps — the electronic benefits transfer system — suddenly found that their cards had no spending limits.
Rather than refuse to let people use them, several Wal-Mart stores decided to put people on the honor system and let them use the cards for their usual purchases. Fat chance. You can guess what happened next.
Dozens of people raced through the stores, pushing two and even three shopping carts. They stripped the shelves of as many goodies as they could stuff into their carts, then headed for the check-out counters.
Only a few of them made it through the lines and out the store, however, before the glitch was corrected and credit limits were restored. When that happened, most of the disappointed shoppers simply abandoned their goody-laden carts and walked out of the store.
Isn’t that a perfect example of the greedy rapaciousness that our entitlement society has produced? You won’t be surprised to learn that a lot of the food stamp recipients were furious when they learned that they weren’t going to get away with all the loot they wanted to grab.
Before I close, let me remind you of some recent history that the mainstream media has been ignoring.
First, despite the fact that Federal law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, the Democrats who control the Senate have refused to approve one for the past five years. And don’t blame this on that obstreperous Republican majority in House; that’s only existed for the past two-and-a-half years. Prior to 2010, Democrats controlled a majority in both the House and Senate, and they still refused to approve a budget.
Second, it’s simply not true that it was the refusal of House Republicans to approve any spending bills that led to the current partial shutdown of the Federal government. In point of fact, the House repeatedly passed legislation to fund every single Federal program, with one exception: Obamacare.
But early on, Obama and his advisers decided on an “all or nothing” strategy. They refused to budge an inch. There would be absolutely no give and take this time around. In fact, for most of the prolonged controversy, they refused to even meet with the Republican leadership. Is it any wonder that things have been at an impasse for the past month or two?
And when Republicans finally threw in the towel and decided to give the Democrats almost everything they had been demanding, guess what? Obama demanded even more.
Yes, now that he thinks the Republicans are on the ropes, Obama is demanding that the budget cuts he himself proposed two years ago — the ones now known as sequestration — must be rolled back.
By the way, isn’t it interesting that during the debate over defunding Obamacare — an incredibly unpopular law that was crammed down our throats without a single vote in its favor by any Republican — Obama and his supporters insisted that no changes would be allowed. It’s the law of the land, they said, passed by Congress and signed by the President.
But sequestration is also the law of the land, passed by Congress and signed by the President. The big spenders in Washington don’t like the limits it places on them, so of course it should be changed, if that’s what they want.
Does anyone detect a little bit of hypocrisy here?
Have all the posturing and politicking over the past few weeks accomplished anything positive? Well, yes. According to the latest opinion polls, a majority of voters now want to kick all of the politicians in Washington out of office.
Sadly, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll still feel this way 14 months from now, when they will actually have an opportunity to do precisely that — at least for every member of the House and one-third of the Senate.
Oh, sure. There would be a few guys (and gals) I’d miss, if by some miracle that happened. And we’d probably even get a whole new group of baddies trying to spend us into bankruptcy.
But it sure is a delightful fantasy, isn’t it?
Until next time, keep some powder dry.