It’s becoming clear that the standoff is going to end with the adoption of the terms of a deal struck between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell:
- There will be a House/Senate conference committee on the budget with orders to report by Dec. 13.
- The continuing resolution to fund the government will be extended until Jan. 15.
- The debt ceiling will be suspended until Feb. 7 and the Treasury can start using “extraordinary measures” there.
- Income verification under the Affordable Care Act will be beefed up.
Now on points, the upshot here is that Republicans put the country through a lot of drama and suffered a lot of public opprobrium and bad poll numbers in order to extract an extremely minor concession. On the other hand, they did extract a concession. If you’re of the school of thought that one of the main problems in America today is that it’s too easy for folks to get freebies from the government—and most Republicans seem to be—then this drama did in a small way make the United States a better place.
So I think there’s a very strong chance we just do this all over again in the new year. The conference committee will be at loggerheads over the question of tax increases. Hard-core conservatives will remain unreconciled to the idea of abandoning the struggle. Mainstream conservatives will continue to be loath to split the party. And the reality will be that the strategy of sticking with the majority-of-the-majority principle until the eleventh hour and then passing bills with mostly Democratic votes is securing policy concessions from Democrats. So why not do it all over again?