You got to give it to the Republicans. The 11th-hour budget deal to keep the government operational has been achieved, with major concessions by the Democrats. Tea Party folk will likely gripe about the failure to gut the Environmental Protection Agency and funding for Planned Parenthood, but from where I sit — literally at a media reform conference in Boston — Speaker of the House John Boehner pulled off a pretty amazing maneuver.
Political forensics is its own industry, with pundits of all stripes weighing in on what really happens in these (and other) negotiations. That said, I haven’t had the chance to follow post-game reports due to the conference. So what follows is my own spot-analysis of the outcome.
Throughout the process of resolving the 2011 budget and avoiding an economically disastrous shutdown, the Democrats gave and gave and gave on cuts, while the GOP leadership kept revising their terms. By Friday of this week, the Republicans — under pressure from social conservatives who drive the agenda for the Tea Party (even if they don’t admit it) — had made federal funding for Planned Parenthood and the EPA part of the package. Never mind that Planned Parenthood receives no federal dollars for abortions and exists as one of the only providers of essential health services for low-income women.
Make no mistake: this is a war on the disadvantaged by a small percentage of vocal, organized and well-funded bigots, who are in turn being used by corporate vampires with no concern for the well-being of their puppet “patriots.”
Then there’s the science around global warming, which the GOP is hellbent on ignoring. But it’s not just about climate change. It’s any regulation meant to prevent corporations from slowly or not-so-slowly poisoning us. The profit motive is a terrible steward of our planet, and it’s time conservative voters figured this out for the sake of those unborn fetuses they love so well.
Speaker Boehner performed an expert kabuki dance to satisfy both GOP leadership and the Tea Party insurgents, while his lieutenants manhandled the media. By the time the music stopped, Republicans had managed to get the Dems to agree to 38 billion dollars in spending cuts with defense largely off the table. That’s a victory however you frame it. They didn’t get their Planned Parenthood and EPA ambush, but they probably knew they wouldn’t all along. More importantly, Bohener and his cronies had the Democrats in a box. If they caved on PP and EPA funding, the right wins. If they didn’t, the right still wins, but Boehner has amassed enough political cover to escape Tea Party bloodletting.
Ultimately, the GOP strategy is doomed in the long term, and I intend to write about why in an upcoming piece. For now, they are consistently successful at exploiting the Democrats’ negotiation posture to get pretty much everything they were ever gonna get on the budget.
Neat trick, but I wonder when the country will realize that they, too, have been taken hostage.