In the parlance of Washington, the Democrats are going to get the upper hand in the final round of the debt debate. Republicans will succeed in making a vast cut in federal spending, unimaginable before the 2010 election and will block any tax increases. Democrats will get an extension of the debt limit until after the election so as to avoid dragging Obama through this process again.
But the damage this debate has inflicted on the Obama Presidency is so deep and profound that it will have played a large part in dooming his re-election chances. The injury to his popularity from the debt debate is far greater than the addition to his popularity he realized after killing bin Laden.
Here’s what will unfold in Washington:
Step One: Reid and McConnell will craft a deal calling for larger so-called budget cuts (they’ll count the fictitious spending cuts achieved by avoiding foreign wars not now contemplated) and they will extend the debt limit until after the election. McConnell will exact some language whereby Obama has to ask for the additional borrowing authority but it will require a two-thirds vote to deny it to him. There will be a bi-partisan committee to craft further savings, but nobody will pay much attention to its results, certainly not Obama.
Step Two: The Reid-McConnell compromise will pass the Senate with five or six defections by Democrats up for re-election and a dozen or two additions from non-tea party Republicans.
Step Three: House Republicans will raise hell and refuse to pass the Senate bill. Boehner will make a show of persuading them and then, finally, confronted by the “deadline” artificially ginned up by the president, he will permit it to pass with strong Democratic support. A majority — or close to it — of his own party will vote no.
Outcome: Obama will get credit for raising the debt limit. Republican conservatives will be able to say they voted no. Boehner will keep his credibility because he got a pure debt limit bill passed only with GOP votes before he crossed the aisle for final passage.
But the real outcome will be to have brought Obama’s job approval down from its bin Laden high of 55% to a new Gallup low of 40%. That is ground he won’t be able to make up. And, put through the rigors of tension and uncertainly, the economy will sink further into a double dip recession. A recession brought on, in large part, by Obama’s crying wolf over the debt limit and creating an environment of financial and economic terror around its passage.
Republicans proved they can govern by passing their one-house debt limit increase. Their fiscal conservative credentials are intact. And Obama looks, once more, like a weak and easily cowed incompetent to his backers and a big spending and borrowing liberal to the rest of us.
Game to Obama. Set and Match to the GOP.