House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) did what few thought possible. He wrung billions more in cuts from the Democrats, maintained the Washington, D.C., prohibition on abortion funding, obtained audits for Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation, resisted further savaging defense spending (which was severely underfunded in the fiscal 2011 budget) and forced the Senate to vote on repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood ( pro-life Democrats such as Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Robert Casey (Pa.) will be put on the spot). He did it all without shutting down the government and without alienating his caucus. To the contrary, the cheered him when he shared the terms of the deal.
At the end (nearly) of a long night Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Boehner issued a business-like and brief statement:
“We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the president. We will cut $78.5 billion below the president’s 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders. In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running through Thursday. That short-term bridge will cut the first two billion of the total savings.”
Boehner spoke with restraint and gravity, appropriate to the occasion:
I’m pleased that Senator Reid and I and the White House have been able to come to an agreement that will, in fact, cut spending and keep our government open. And I expect that the House will vote yet tonight on a short-term continuing resolution ending next week to allow for time for this agreement to be put together in legislative form and brought to the floor of the House and Senate for a vote. And so I would expect the final vote on this to occur mid-next week.
But I do believe that we’ll have what we call a bridge continuing resolution pass tonight to ensure that government is open.
As you all know, this has been a loud discussion and a long fight. But we fought to keep government spending down because it really will, in fact, help create a better environment for job creators in our country.
Then, after the House and Senate leaders presented their historic agreement to the country, up popped President Obama. He hadn’t been there to make the deal, and he had opposed the Republicans’ efforts to squeeze out more tax cuts. But there he was, sounding like, well, sort of a giddy manager of the D.C. visitor center. He began:
Behind me, through the window, you can see the Washington Monument, visited each year by hundreds of thousands from around the world. The people who travel here come to learn about our history and to be inspired by the example of our democracy — a place where citizens of different backgrounds and beliefs can still come together as one nation.
Tomorrow, I’m pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business. And that’s because today Americans of different beliefs came together again.
And he closed that way too:
A few days ago, I received a letter from a mother in Longmont, Colorado. Over the year, her son’s eighth-grade class saved up money and worked on projects so that next week they could take a class trip to Washington, D.C. They even have an appointment to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The mother wrote that for the last few days the kids in her son’s class had been worried and upset that they might have to cancel their trip because of a shutdown. She asked those of us in Washington to get past our petty grievances and make things right. And she said, “Remember, the future of this country is not for us. It’s for our children.”
Today we acted on behalf of our children’s future. And next week, when 50 eighth-graders from Colorado arrive in our nation’s capital, I hope they get a chance to look up at the Washington Monument and feel the sense of pride and possibility that defines America — a land of many that has always found a way to move forward as one.
Good grief. Could there be any more vivid illustration of the president’s unseriousness and lack of command of the momentous events that had just occurred? In between his tourist comments, he confirmed the Republicans’ case, saying “this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water.” And he applauded the work he fought tooth and nail against, namely billions more in cuts in the current budget. “Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs — investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future.”
Yes, he was disingenuous, but he was also oddly unserious. He seemed like the queen of England (politically powerless, delivering scripted remarks after the real government delivered its works). Has he become merely the head of state and not the government? It sure seemed that way.
Last week Obama was upstaged twice, once by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and once by Boehner. He and his advisers should think long and hard about his do-nothing strategy; it is making the president seem like a nobody.