Obama’s budget win has strings attached


By Julie Pace ,AP

WASHINGTON — U.S. 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 conservative party.

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.

Congress’ last-minute deal generated yet another round of looming deadlines on the same issues — funding the government and raising the country’s borrowing limit to prevent a default on its obligations. And there is 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 Republican 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 who ran unsuccessfully for president against Obama in 2008.

Republicans will have to quickly settle on a strategy. The deal that ended this month’s standoff only keeps the government open through Jan. 15 and extends borrowing authority through Feb. 7, though emergency measures may give the administration another month before reaching the debt limit. The agreement also requires bipartisan negotiators to issue a report by Dec. 13 on broader budget issues like spending levels and deficit reduction — matters over which the White House and congressional Republicans have long been at odds.

What happens during this next round of deadlines will help clarify whether Obama’s October win has done anything to alter the political dynamic in Washington or whether it was an isolated achievement.