It's been less than a week since House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) surprised the political world by publicly and directly taking on the right wing groups -- and, by inference, the tea party wing of the GOP -- two days in a row. He then openly defied them by allowing the House to vote on a budget deal that was a compromise with Democrats they didn't like.
Four days later the question is whether this was a permanent change for Boehner. Will he continue to tell the tea partiers in his caucus, the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and the others he so resoundingly criticized that they can go to hell, or was this a one-time event not likely to be repeated?
The indications are that this was a not permanent change in the speaker's political testosterone level. Here's why.
Some quick thoughts this morning:
1. It's still no better than 50-50 ("a coin flip" as @thefix said to me on Washington Post TV last week) that the debt ceiling will be raised by October 17, the date Treasury says it will run out of the ability to use "extraordinary measures" and the government will have to operate just from the cash it has on hand every day.
2. If anything the situation has gotten worse rather than better over the past few days with House Republicans in open warfare against their GOP Senate colleagues. It appears that House Republicans need to get something out of the box the are in with the government shutdown and debt ceiling even if it means extracting a pound of political flesh from their own party to do it.
3. Let me say this yet again as directly as possible: John Boehner (R-OH) is the weakest and least effective speaker in my lifetime, and he may come close to taking the all-time title.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pretty much got what he wanted from week 1 of The Great Shutdown of 2013. Boehner demonstrated to his caucus what he was willing to do for it -- allow the government to be shutdown -- and it seems to be very appreciative of his efforts.
For that matter, the White House and congressional Democrats also got what they wanted in week 1. The White House and House and Senate Ds held firm to their no negotiating strategy and appear to be more unified than they've been in years. And the polls showed that, as expected but hardly guaranteed, it is the GOP rather than the Democrats that are being increasingly blamed for the shutdown.
All sides are now in a better position to cut a deal. Boehner, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have all now amply demonstrated to their respective constituencies that they are indeed the hard asses they wanted them to be. All of the leader are, therefore, are in a better position to convince their colleagues that a shutdown-ending deal is acceptable.
This is being written several hours after the Senate summarily rejected yet another proposal from the House to tie funding for the government to changes in Obamacare.
The House then moved to do something it should have done days...or at least hours...ago: officially request a conference with the Senate on the continuing resolution so that formal negotiations over the fiscal 2014 continuing resolution can get underway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) then adjourned the Senate until 9:30 am EDT and indicated that he expects that the request for a conference will be rejected until the House adopts a short-term CR that funds the government.
What all of the legislative maneuvering means is that the federal government shutdown many (or perhaps most) people thought would be avoided has started and will be in effect for a while.
It also means that the question has now changed from "Will there be a shutdown?" to "How long will it last?".
Here's what you need to know about the logistics of the shutdown.
I will admit right upfront that there is a little bit of wishful thinking in what you're about to read.
But it's only a little bit. And my realizing that it exists hasn't changed my analysis that a government shutdown could be the point that historians one day point to as the beginning of the end for the tea partiers in Congress.
I've come to this conclusion for two reasons
First, many people don't remember that the beginning of the end of Newt Gingrich's speakership began when Republicans were blamed for the two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996.
The comparison is anything but perfect. But given that Gingrich and congressional Republicans were far more popular in the mid-1990s than the tea party is today, and in light of the fact that the tea party and not House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is most likely to bear the blame if a shutdown occurs, there's a good reason to think that at least some of the TP's supporters will find themselves cursing the tea party's name very soon, especially when the shutdown begins to affect them negatively.