The budget deal may have passed the House, but in the last two days the GOP has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in typical Republican fashion. Despite extremely technical defenses of the continuing resolution, the fact is the actual budget was far more reliant on smoke and mirrors to reach its goals than when the broad outlines were announced late last week. The 59 Republican no votes won’t obscure the fact that most Republicans voted yes, including a majority of the freshmen who explicitly ran against these kinds of budgetary practices.
Finishing a spending plan for the final six months of this fiscal year was always of secondary importance to the long-term budget, and the merits of a bill that could get more than token Democratic support — much less the backing of Obama, Reid, and Hoyer — were always going to be limited. The Republicans have still lived to fight another day. But the storyline has gone from averting a government shutdown while cutting spending last Friday to damaging the Tea Party brand today. It’s a victory of sorts, but not the kind Republicans will want to keep repeating if they wish to maintain their credibility.