Politico leads this morning with a story about liberal dissatisfaction with the debt deal. They quote Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, as saying, “If I was a Republican, this is a night to party.” Rep. Raul Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, went even further.
“This deal trades people’s livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it,” he said, criticizing Obama’s leadership. “The Democratic Party, no less than the Republican Party, is at a very serious crossroads at this moment. This deal weakens the Democratic Party as badly as it weakens the country,” Grijalva continued. “We have given much and received nothing in return. The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want.”
Despite this tough talk, it is worth asking whether liberal opposition to the debt deal will mean anything. Liberals grumbled when the Bush tax cuts were continued, but ultimately didn’t vote against the extension in large enough numbers to accomplish anything. The Congressional Progressive Caucus threatened to withhold support from a health care bill that didn’t have the public option, only to fall in line when their votes were needed. In fact, they only narrowly averted a health care bill with no public option and no funding of abortion. Crickets chirped as Obama continued the Bush national security policies, going beyond Bush on targeted assasinations.
The only liberal revolt of any consequence during the Obama presidency was over the AIG bonuses. And even that was something of a left-right populist protest that failed to bring down Treasuy Secretary Tim Geithner. Maybe a combination of liberal and conservative opponents will be able to sink this debt deal. But it is looking more like the deals to avoid tax increases and government shutdown — one that could pass with the support of both parties’ leaders despite opposition from the left and the right.