By most measures, President Barack Obama emerged far stronger than his Republican adversaries in Washington’s latest fiscal fight. He gave away virtually nothing and his hard-line tactics exposed deep divisions among Republicans and growing public frustration with the GOP.
But Obama’s victory came with strings attached. Under his watch, big swaths of the federal government were shuttered for 16 days, forcing hundreds of thousands of workers off the job and restricting many services. The nation was brought to the brink of a default for the second time in two years. And Congress’ last-minute deal generated yet another round of looming deadlines on the same issues, with no guarantee that Republican opposition to Obama’s objectives will be dampened in any way.
“What comes next is very unpredictable,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist. “The notion that this group of people is going to be chastened by this, while it seems obvious, is uncertain.”
Indeed, there’s little consensus among Republicans about how to proceed in the aftermath of the budget crisis. Some conservatives who demanded changes to Obama’s health care law in exchange for funding the government have signaled they’re ready to dig in for another fight. Among them is Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who said Republicans may have “lost the battle but we’re going to win the war.”
But other GOP lawmakers are demanding that their party make a course correction.
“Hopefully, the lesson is to stop this foolish childishness,” said John McCain, the longtime Arizona senator.
At the White House, Obama blended sharp criticism of Republicans with a plea for their cooperation over the remainder of the year and a call for less shrillness on both sides.
Obama said the public is “completely fed up with Washington” and he and Congress face hard work in regaining trust. It was a reference to public opinion polls that show the nation in a sour mood.