The Wall Street Journal has the best take on the debt ceiling deal worked out between President Obama and congressional leaders:
If a good political compromise is one that has something for everyone to hate, then last night’s bipartisan debt-ceiling deal is a triumph. The bargain is nonetheless better than what seemed achievable in recent days, especially given the revolt of some GOP conservatives that gave the White House and Democrats more political leverage.
The big picture is that the deal is a victory for the cause of smaller government, arguably the biggest since welfare reform in 1996. Most bipartisan budget deals trade tax increases that are immediate for spending cuts that turn out to be fictional. This one includes no immediate tax increases, despite President Obama’s demand as recently as last Monday. The immediate spending cuts are real, if smaller than we’d prefer, and the longer-term cuts could be real if Republicans hold Congress and continue to enforce the deal’s spending caps.
The framework (we haven’t seen all the details) calls for an initial step of some $900 billion in domestic discretionary cuts over 10 years from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline puffed up by recent spending. If the cuts hold, this would go some way to erasing the fiscal damage from the Obama-Nancy Pelosi stimulus. This is no small achievement considering that Republicans control neither the Senate nor the White House, and it underscores how much the GOP victory in November has reshaped the U.S. fiscal debate.
No wonder liberals are howling. They have come to believe in the upward spending ratchet, under which all spending increases are permanent. Not any more.
As Jennifer Rubin (who has emerged during this crisis as one of the best sources of information, presented with verve, in town) notes, this deal “is virtually everything Republicans could hope for.” There are no tax increases and significant spending cuts. No, the Republicans don’t get to have another public debt ceiling debate before the 2012 election, allowing President Obama to twitter while Washington sizzles, but on most issues, they prevailed.
A select committee will be charged with proposing additional cuts before Thanksgiving. If they cannot get cuts through Congress, on an up or down vote, this would trigger automatic cuts of government spending, including for defense. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, Rubin explains:
In the House-passed bill, defense funding would be a range of plus-or-minus three percent from last year’s level. In this new framework, the Democrats tried to insist on locking in Defense cuts – which Republicans consider irresponsible and strongly opposed. Instead, the emerging framework creates a ‘firewall’ that separates all security spending (security spending is not just DoD but also foreign aid and Homeland Security, for example) from non-security spending. This structure allows our members, led by House Armed Services Chairman Rogers and McKeon, to work with both parties to do the right thing and ensure that any cuts do not harm defense. While Democrats may continue to insist and try to cut defense, Republicans will fight on behalf of our Armed Forces and make sure our troops get the resources they need.
The deal must pass both houses of Congress. This means we are in for another tense day, though the markets seem to think it will pass.
A few words about the tea party: We owe them a great deal of gratitude because they helped make this deal possible. But they also deserve a great deal of criticism. They blew it towards the end with demands that had no chance of becoming reality. Here is what they must do: you know the pocket version of the Constitution they love to wave around? They must sit down and read it.
As they seem to know from waving that hallowed document about, it’s a damned good outline for running a government, our government. We have checks and balances and branches of government. Nobody, not even the righteous tea party, can make the world bend to their will just through being determined. The tea party should also review the concept of either/or-as in, either we solve this problem, or we go into default. I got tired of hearing them talk about voting their consciences, when voting their baroque consciences threatened catastrophe.
The Wall Street Journal concludes:
The tea partiers pride themselves on adhering to the Constitution, which was intended to make political change difficult. Yet in this deal they’ve forced both parties to make the biggest spending cuts in 15 years, with more cuts likely next year. The U.S. is engaged in an epic debate over the size and scope of government that will play out over several years, and the most important battle comes in the election of 2012.
Tea partiers will do more for their cause by applauding this victory and working toward the next, rather than diminishing what they’ve accomplished because it didn’t solve every fiscal problem in one impossible swoop.