The answer: probably not, though it may have helped define the terms of engagement for the battles to come.
“We’re still in a pretty fluid period as to how and whether the two sides can work together,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Wednesday.
White House officials see the deal brokered this week as a critical short-term victory with long-term consequences — forcing House Republicans to surrender on one of their party’s core tenets. The agreement, approved with comfortable bipartisan majorities on New Year’s Day, raised taxes on net income over $400,000 while holding rates steady for income below that amount.
From the outset, the Obama administration approached the negotiations as an opportunity, in the words of one top official, to “readjust the balance” from 2011, when the president became mired in negotiations to lift the debt ceiling and failed to produce a larger deal that would have trimmed $4 trillion over a decade.
With Obama’s reelection, White House strategists were determined that Republicans recognize that a new political dynamic had taken hold, one that could cement the president’s legacy with legislative victories on issues including immigration.
“A year ago, the idea that the Republican Party would agree to raise a dollar in revenue from the wealthy was seen as a pipe dream,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “The Republicans wouldn’t agree in the room, so the president took the battle to the country and made it a centerpiece of his campaign and forced the Republicans to do the one thing they said they would never do. This isn’t the best way to govern, but it was the only option available.”
The vote marked the first time in more than a decade that a measure passed a GOP-controlled House despite being opposed by a majority of Republicans in that chamber. So splintered was the party that even its leadership was divided: Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) supported the deal, while his second- and third-in-command, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), opposed it.
The experience was especially disillusioning for those hard-line Republicans who were elected in the tea party era.
“I know a lot of folks walked out with a real bad taste in their mouths,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), a freshman who has emerged as a leading critic of Boehner’s since the speaker removed him from a plum committee assignment last month. “It wasn’t Republicans clapping and cheering. It was Democrats.”
Republicans insist that this will not become a pattern in the House, where governance by “a majority of the majority” has been the watchword since the late 1990s.