The Deal

by Rich Lowry

My two cents: A lot depends on how you viewed the stakes and the risks. If you thought cutting a few tens of billions more in spending this fiscal year would make a major difference in the country’s future, and/or thought a shutdown would be a political winner for Republicans, you have to be disappointed that Boehner didn’t push it further.

Since I believed neither of those things to be true, I had low expectations. I saw the whole confrontation through the prism of two major downside risks: 1) a shutdown that could go awry politically and badly hurt Republicans three months into their House majority; 2) a poisonous split in the caucus that would make it impossible for House Republicans to fight cohesively on the big items to come. Boehner has apparently avoided both of those outcomes while pushing Democrats from $0 billion to $38.5 billion on the top-line number on cuts.

We still don’t know the composition of those cuts and I suspect they will do less to reduce the baseline for future spending than we’d like (which is why I’d be wary of hailing these cuts as “historic,” etc. — there may be less than meets the eye). It’s also disappointing that Planned Parenthood got off the hook, but it always seemed too good to be true that Republicans would fight and win a shutdown fight with Planned Parenthood front and center. Overall, it looks like a very modest win in a very modest game.

Up next is the debate over the debt ceiling, which offers the possibility for imposing much more consequential, far-reaching restraints on spending. And it’s always worth remembering that the fundamental problem here really isn’t a lack of guts so much as a lack of the Senate and the White House. Get both of those things in 2012, and we’ll be talking trillions rather than billions in cuts and Planned Parenthood will not get another thin dime of federal money.

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