A primer on the showdown
Q: When would agencies reopen?
A: Probably a day or two after Obama signs a deal.
Q: Why did a deal take so long?
A: There are two answers:
2. A group of conservative Tea Party Republicans in the House insisted on significant changes to the health care law in order to keep the government functioning.
Q: There aren’t actually major changes to the health care law in the deal?
Q: Who won and who lost?
A: It seems pretty clear in this round of the budget wars, Obama and the Democrats will have outmaneuvered their Republican opponents. House Republicans decided to shut down the government in hopes of major changes to Obamacare. None is in the offing.
Senate Republicans reluctantly went along with that strategy — at least for a while. In the meantime, the GOP brand was badly beaten up in the polls. Prognosticators now guess that Republicans could have a very hard time winning the Senate in 2014 — even though the electoral map is stacked against the Democrats. But the House still looks safe for the GOP.
Meanwhile, Obama and Democrats stayed firm to their view that they would not pay a “ransom” to accomplish the basic tasks of keeping the government open and raising the debt limit.
Q: Hasn’t Obama been forced to compromise to raise the debt ceiling and open the government?
A: Not really. Obama is giving the flimsiest of fig leaves to the Republicans — a promise to do a better job ensuring that people who report their income to get help buying health insurance under the health care law are actually reporting their income properly. There were already some assurances in the law, so all the president is promising is an additional layer of scrutiny.
Q: So is it all wonderful for Obama and Democrats?
A: No. The truth is that for all the drama, they’re getting little. They didn’t roll back the deep spending cuts known as the sequester that took effect this year and are eating away at domestic priorities such as education and research and development. They didn’t get new money to spend on jobs or an immigration bill. They got a political win. And they avoided an economic disaster.