[I]nstead of a relatively conciliatory Republican Senate, we have a newly revitalized Democratic Senate. We can expect a far more energetic liberal wing, with several new liberal Senators (Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and more) and other liberals gaining seniority. These active Senators will have a strong interest in getting bills passed, which may make them more effective in seeking areas of common interest even with conservative Republicans.Joshua Green at Businessweek runs down the reasons why John Boehner's opposition failed to unseat him from his position as Speaker:
What about the House? The rejectionist caucus gets a little smaller this year. But that group of a dozen to sixty House Republicans has never really been the issue; it’s the hundred or more mainstream conservatives who aren’t nuts but are terrified of allowing any daylight between themselves and whatever Michele Bachmann or Louis Gohmert or Rush Limbaugh or Grover Norquist sets as the “conservative” party line that constitute the real problem.
Final step: Pulling it off. Here’s where things went truly, hilariously awry. Any good coup depends on stealth. But on Thursday, an enterprising Politico photographer snapped Rep. Tim Huelskamp sitting in open session reading from his iPad — not making this up — the entire roster of the plot against Boehner. Just so there was no mistaking that he was up to no good, the document was entitled “YOU WOULD BE FIRED IF THIS GOES OUT.” Not making that up either.Hapless as the Tea Party was, they still succeeded in bringing a the GOP civil war out to the public again.
Worse still, half the roster on Huelskamp’s iPad lost their nerve and bailed out. In the end, only nine Republicans broke ranks. Three cast votes for Cantor (who was visibly disgusted), two for recently ousted Rep. Allen West, and one for a former U.S. comptroller general. Several of the plotters even voted for each other. Boehner was reelected Speaker.
Republican Rep. Trent Franks probably put it best when he described the coup as “a ridiculous miscalculation on the part of a sincere, but completely inept” group of colleagues. All in all, a tough loss. Presumably, the plotters have gained a newfound appreciation for Boehner’s skills and how difficult it is to wrangle votes.
The new Congress will take up the aftermath of the "fiscal cliff" bill. Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post takes a look at what the bill means going forward:
The bogus “fiscal cliff” — and please, let’s never, ever use those words again — was designed as a doomsday mechanism to force Congress and the president to make tough decisions. But resistance to the very concept of decision-making was so fierce that our leaders could manage only to avoid hurtling to their doom, and ours, by deciding not to decide much of anything.Bill Press at the Chicago Tribune says the while the deal hurt Republicans much more than Democrats, it's citizens who lost in the end:
Obama “won” this bloody and unnecessary battle, but what did he really gain, aside from bragging rights for the next few weeks? More important, what, if anything, did the nation gain? Practically zilch, except a reprieve from hardships that its elected leaders were bizarrely threatening to impose on the citizens who elected them.
The current agreement expires on March 31. And in none of these three upcoming battles will President Obama have the same strong leverage he enjoyed this week with scheduled expiration of the Bush tax cuts.Also, don't miss Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro's piece at Reuters on how smiles turned to "distrust to rancor" in the "fiscal cliff" deal.
Careening from one fiscal crisis to another? Surely, conservatives and liberals must agree, this is no way for Congress to govern. If anybody tried to run a business this way, they'd be fired.
Finally, Paul Krugman:
According to the normal rules of politics, Republicans should have very little bargaining power at this point. With Democrats holding the White House and the Senate, the G.O.P. can’t pass legislation; and since the biggest progressive policy priority of recent years, health reform, is already law, Republicans wouldn’t seem to have many bargaining chips. But the G.O.P. retains the power to destroy, in particular by refusing to raise the debt limit — which could cause a financial crisis. And Republicans have made it clear that they plan to use their destructive power to extract major policy concessions.
Now, the president has said that he won’t negotiate on that basis, and rightly so. Threatening to hurt tens of millions of innocent victims unless you get your way — which is what the G.O.P. strategy boils down to — shouldn’t be treated as a legitimate political tactic.
But will Mr. Obama stick to his anti-blackmail position as the moment of truth approaches? He blinked during the 2011 debt limit confrontation. And the last few days of the fiscal cliff negotiations were also marked by a clear unwillingness on his part to let the deadline expire. Since the consequences of a missed deadline on the debt limit would potentially be much worse, this bodes ill for administration resolve in the clinch.