New Year’s Day: The Deal and An Open Thread

So the fiscal deal got done, and passed the Senate early this morning by a 89-8 margin. It’s exactly what everyone heard all day yesterday, with the addition of a two-month delay in the appropriations sequester created by Congress at the end of the debt limit battle of 2011.

It is interesting that of the five Republican “nay” votes, two came from potential 2012 presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul.

While virtually everyone is predicting House passage of the Senate bill, perhaps as early as today, it could get tricky. Both House Caucuses are meeting within the hour, and the big challenge may be deciding how many and which Members get “free” votes to oppose the deal and how loudly they may denounce it. Indications are that House Democratic leaders were in the loop with White House negotiators during the Senate discussions; it’s not quite so clear Boehner–much less restive House conservatives who will be under pressure to vote no–were directly involved.

As I said yesterday, the true meaning of the deal won’t be apparent until we see how the next negotiations–which will now revolve around both the debt limit and the delayed sequestration, plus whatever else both parties decide to place on the table–begin to unfold.

Here’s how Krugman put it:

[O]n the principle of the thing, you could say that Democrats held their ground on the essentials — no cuts in benefits — while Republicans have just voted for a tax increase for the first time in decades.

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.

I wouldn’t go nearly that far; Obama’s presidency will always remain at least a limited success for the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the mitigation of the 2008-2009 financial disaster; and avoidance of what a radicalized Republican Party sought to do to the public sector, and would have done had Obama blown this last election (as Krugman acknowledges). But there’s no question the next phase of the fiscal battle will be fateful for Obama’s legacy and for real-life conditions in the country–perhaps for a long, long time.

Any thoughts on the deal or anything else on your minds are welcome in the comment thread. I’ll have another holiday post later in the day, particularly if the House acts.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.