The Washington Post

Some Republicans defect on the Boehner-Obama budget deal

Last week, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that he needed a 2011 budget deal favorable enough to Republicans that it would attract 218 GOP votes in the House of Representatives. Nothing that would split too many conservatives from the rest of his House majority. He held out on agreeing with Democrats until the final few minutes before the government would have had to shut down, signaling to the right that he had secured all he could.  

Two hundred eighteen didn’t happen.

On Thursday, the House voted, and Boehner didn't even get 200 Republicans voting yes. At last count, 59 Republicans opposed the continuing resolution that will fund the government for the rest of the year. Dave Weigel argues that many of these Republicans would have voted no, no matter what, which is undoubtedly true.

But there’s also little doubt the tone has shifted since Boehner and the Democrats struck their deal. Last week, Republicans seemed mostly ecstatic at the deal Boehner had secured, even if some were still on the fence. Then on Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) pointed out that, in terms of actual spending that the federal government will actually do in 2011, the budget deal Boehner negotiated will only decrease outlays by$352 million, less than 1 percent of the $38 billion it was supposedly going to save. Liberals started to claim that Obama really got the better end.

One could smell the concern from Boehner's office all day on Thursday; his staff sent out press release after press release defending the deal's numbers, and they called an unplanned meeting to explain the intricacies of federal budgeting to the GOP caucus. Most Republicans came around.

But, given that some GOP lawmakers may still feel misled, they might be angrier when Boehner wants to raise the federal debt ceiling in a few weeks. The base might not be all that excited, either. Boehner and the Democrats waged near total war over cutting a pittance from the 2011 budget — and, it turns out, even those cuts came with a confusing asterisk. Now, despite all the brinksmanship and the hand-wringing and shutdown threats, the budget cuts don’t even have quite the symbolic value they were supposed to.

UPDATE: Text above tightened since the original.

Stephen Stromberg is a Post editorial writer. He specializes in domestic policy, including energy, the environment, legal affairs and public health.


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