Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Though Democrats are hailing the 2011 budget deal as a victory, it's really the Republicans who've won the bigger battle. Yes, Democrats fended off funding cuts to STD screenings, Pap smears, and other preventative services that Planned Parenthood provides—as well as protecting Head Start, Pell grants, and other Democratic priorities. But in the end, Republicans managed to extract deeper cuts than they'd ever imagined possible, shifting the terms of the entire spending debate in their favor. Only a few months ago, President Obama was calling for a budget freeze—rather than cuts—and underscored the need for boosting infrastructure, education, and other long-term investments in the economy. Now you have leaders on both sides celebrating major budget cuts. And the GOP's right flank is already poised to extract its next pound of flesh.
Already, there are House Republicans who are gearing up for a fight in the next round. After the budget deal was struck (quite literally) at the eleventh hour on Friday, Congress passed a short-term, six-day extension of government spending to avert a shutdown, with the blessing of both both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blessing. Though the measure passed by a huge margin, 28 Republicans voted against the budget extension—members who are likely to vote down the final budget on Thursday.
The right-wing holdouts include tea party-backed freshmen like Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), as well as veteran firebrands like Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa). There won't be enough defections to scuttle the budget, but the GOP's conservative wing will be reinforcing the message that the 2011 budget doesn't go far enough—and that the GOP must push for more concessions in the fights over the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget that are on the horizon. And Boehner has already promised them as much.
To be sure, an even larger proportion of House Democratic caucus voted against the short-term extension as, with 42 of 182 members voting no on Friday night. The defecting Dems represented the progressive left-wing of the party. But given the gigantic concessions that Obama and Democratic leaders have already made to the Republicans—both in terms of concrete funding cuts, as well as the larger message that major austerity measures are urgently needed—the rebel Dems have far less leverage than their Republican counterparts.