Who Won the Budget Battle?
President Obama may have gotten his budget (once the House and Senate iron out their differences), but along the way he may have sacrificed his chances for slaying the Republican Party and establishing that permanent governing majority which both political parties crave.
An over-reaching budget, which drowns us in red ink and devotes more of the GDP to the government than at any time since WWII, may turn out to be a setback for the administration. As Obama forfeits his claims of fiscal responsibility, he has emboldened the opposition and made moderates in his own party, rightfully so, very nervous.
Liberals are generally pleased, but liberal giddiness is not a barometer of long-term success. As Michael Goodwin observed, "That pattern is tired already. Starting with the stimulus, Obama's initiatives have depended almost entirely on liberal Democrats." His budget received not a single Republican vote. Mainstream op-eds and former Clinton officials have panned it as a jump into the fiscal abyss.
This has given Republicans plenty of running room. Bill Kristol explained:
And the Republican Party is united in a principled way. I don't think people can look at it -- independent voters can't look at the Republicans now and say they're just being opportunistic or, you know, knee-jerk anti-Obama.
They object in principle to this massive expansion of government's role in the economy, taking over the health care system, et cetera. And I think it allows -- I think he's allowed the Republican Party to recover more quickly than one would have expected and conservatives, actually, to recover more quickly than one might have expected after the 2008 elections.
For 22 Democrats in Congress, including well-known names like Senator (and one-time VP contender) Evan Bayh, the budget was simply a step too far, an act of fiscal irresponsibility they could not countenance. And even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer seems a wee bit nervous, explaining that we really need to get our financial house in order. "Such deficit spending would be reckless, however, without a plan to get our deficit back under control," Hoyer wrote in the Wall Street Journal. Some day they'll get around to that, I'm sure.