This week, Congress did something increasingly rare: Reached a compromise.
On Tuesday, budget negotiators announced they had crafted a two-year spending deal that has support from enough members of both parties to pass Congress and be signed by President Obama. No government shutdown, no dramatic showdown over Syrian refugees or Planned Parenthood. Just a good, old-fashioned compromise that funds the government past the presidential election.
The spending bill is expected to pass as soon as Friday -- though who votes for it is still an open question, since not everyone's pleased with the deal. And the dynamics that helped make this compromise happen will play a big role in how successful House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is next year in leading an unruly House Republican conference.
So we ranked the spending bill's winners and losers. Here they are:
In his first major test as speaker, Ryan successfully navigated what appeared to be a no-win scenario with as little damage as he possibly could. He did his part to avoid a potentially costly (politically speaking) government shutdown. He did it with at least some goodwill intact from the group of House conservatives who are inherently skeptical of negotiating with the other side. And he did it with hardly any public drama.
It wasn't easy: Ryan walked a precarious tight rope to make conservatives feel included in the process while refusing to include any of their demands or bring them behind closed doors, where the real horse-trading was taking place. It remains to be seen just how much benefit of the doubt that group will in turn afford Ryan as they take the next three days to review the bill (allowing time for reflection on important legislation is another Ryan promise to appease the group).
But most importantly, it looks like Ryan is going to get through this year-end spending debate without being cast by members of his party as just another John Boehner (*see losers for more on that). And drawing that contrast is absolutely crucial for Ryan to start next year with his party on a clean slate -- his own slate.
Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats
Ryan had no choice, really, but to turn to Democrats to negotiate this bill. It was Democrats, not Republicans, who helped carry the October budget that laid the framework for this spending bill over the finish line. And it will likely be Democrats who help pass the spending bill. (The party-line vote tally to pass October's budget deal was 187 Democrats and just 79 Republicans.)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arguably had the most leverage in these negotiations. Her biggest win was actually back in October, when she got Republicans to agree to increase discretionary government spending to $80 billion over the next two years -- most crucially, divided equally between domestic spending and military spending. The deal lifted the spending caps put in place after the 2011 fiscal crisis that led to automatic, arbitrary budget cuts known as sequestration.
There's something in this spending bill for everyone to hate. And that's the truest definition of a compromise. Nowhere is that quid pro quo between Ryan and Democrats clearer than in how the bill funds energy for the next two years. The spending bill will lift a 40-year ban on crude oil exports, a major conservative victory. In exchange, Democrats got tax breaks for wind and solar energy producers for the next five years, report The Washington Post's Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis.
9/11 first responders
Extending a federal program to pay for the health care of responders to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was supposed to be a no-brainer. It's tough to find a lawmaker on Capitol Hill who opposes the well-run program. But as The Post's DeBonis details, the 9/11 program quickly became a political chit in the year-end debate: Would it be included in the highway transportation bill? The spending bill? Could it be traded for another priority?
After all that drama, it looks like the program is going to make it through intact, via the spending bill.
The spending bill increases spending, both domestically and militarily, by more than $1 trillion over two years. In addition, negotiators are considering a must-pass bill to extend 50 different tax credits for businesses and individuals -- nearly two dozen permanently -- that would cost $650 billion.
For those (mostly Republican) lawmakers hoping to really take an ax to federal spending, it's safe to say this bill was not what they wanted.
The House Freedom Caucus
Some members are skeptical of how the spending bill was negotiated behind closed doors with Democrats; other are pleased with the fact Ryan sought their input to keep them in the loop.
But nearly all of the 30 or 40 members of the hard-line group will likely not be voting for this spending bill because it contains hardly any of their priorities. It doesn't cut off funds for Planned Parenthood. It doesn't cut off funds for the agency that would help bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees next year. It does not take a conservative stand on hardly anything they've been intently focusing on in recent months and years.
Ryan repeatedly told skeptical members of his party that he was negotiating this big, expensive, compromised spending bill because he had no choice; the mess former speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) left him with backed him into a corner.
Next year will be different, Ryan promised. (We're skeptical about whether that really will be the case.) But publicly at least, the forced-out Boehner didn't appear to get the credit he deserved in helping secure this budget deal before he left office.
Getting a two-year budget framework signed into law was Boehner's parting gift to Ryan, helping the new speaker avoid a shutdown and pass his first major test. And yet to strike that deal while attempting to appease House conservatives, Ryan repeatedly blamed Boehner's leadership style. There was no love lost among conservatives for the former speaker and the deal he helped engineer.
To be determined
The "hope yes, vote no" group of House Republicans
This group of about 75 lawmakers is in a tough spot. Their leadership team is pleading with them to stop joining with hard-line House conservatives and voting to hold up major deals like this one. In November, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) tried to call their bluff by saying he knows this group of Republicans don't want the government to shut down over a fight about Syrian refugees, even though they might vote that way.
But for various reasons -- not the least of which is worry of a primary challenger back home -- lawmakers in this group have made a calculated decision that it benefits them to vote with the most conservative members of the party.
Will they hear Ryan's pleas and vote to approve the spending bill, or will they keep voting with the most conservative members of their party, adding strength to their cause? What this group decides could determine how smoothly things go in Congress next year -- and their political fortunes come Election Day.