Everyone Won the Government Shutdown

It’s getting hard to find a political figure who didn’t come out ahead, 150 days later and counting.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) pumps his fist after leaving a meeting of House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. Boehner met with the Republican Conference after the Senate announced earlier that it had reached a bipartisan deal on funding the federal government and extending the nation's debt limit after 16 days of a government shutdown. 
Getty Images
Shane Goldmacher
See more stories about...
Shane Goldmacher
Feb. 27, 2014, 4 p.m.

What if you shut the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment down and every­one was bet­ter off for it?

Take John Boehner, who was on the loser ledger of any ser­i­ous ac­count­ing in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the shut­down. The House speak­er had led his troops in­to a battle he knew — and had told them — they couldn’t win. Six­teen days later, with the Re­pub­lic­an brand blood­ied and at all-time lows, he would have to back down, al­most un­con­di­tion­ally.

Then a funny thing happened. The GOP rank and file began to co­alesce around him. Boehner’s tea-party ant­ag­on­ists in the House ap­pre­ci­ated his fight; his al­lies ap­pre­ci­ated that he was right. “A lead­er without fol­low­ers is simply a man tak­ing a walk,” Boehner later told funny­man Jay Leno. Boehner was done with lonely walks.

“In the long term, it has def­in­itely turned out to be a turn­ing point, and a pos­it­ive turn­ing point, for the Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. Boehner has since helped muscle through a bi­par­tis­an budget, a bi­par­tis­an farm bill, and a debt-lim­it hike without los­ing con­trol of his fam­ously frac­tious con­fer­ence.

“I’m not go­ing to say it was worth it,” King con­tin­ued. “Things have turned out for the bet­ter, I’ll put it that way.”

It’s been 150 days since con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans forced the clos­ure of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in a last-ditch ef­fort to de­rail and de­fund Obama­care. They failed spec­tac­u­larly at achiev­ing that goal. But as each day passes, it’s get­ting harder to find a polit­ic­al fig­ure — Boehner, Pres­id­ent Obama, Ted Cruz, House Demo­crats, Harry Re­id — who didn’t be­ne­fit in some way from the fight.

Five months later, the Great Gov­ern­ment Freeze of 2013 is prov­ing an ap­pre­ci­at­ing as­set.

This is not to dis­count the fed­er­al work­ers who suffered from a delayed paycheck or the Amer­ic­ans who were denied needed ser­vices. (Or the panda lov­ers blocked from their be­loved live video feed from the Na­tion­al Zoo.) But the polit­ic­al ob­it­u­ar­ies writ­ten last Oc­to­ber are turn­ing out to be pre­ma­ture.

The shut­down re­newed Wash­ing­ton’s hand-wringing about grid­lock, but the gears of gov­ern­ment have ac­tu­ally be­gun to turn more ef­fi­ciently ever since. Con­gress passed its first bi­par­tis­an budget in years. The long-stalled farm bill reached the pres­id­ent’s desk. And play­ing chick­en with the debt lim­it, which had left the mar­kets frus­trated, gave way to a re­l­at­ively drama-free lift­ing of the bor­row­ing cap in Feb­ru­ary.

“There are no win­ners here,” Obama in­sisted as the gov­ern­ment re­opened last Oc­to­ber. He spe­cific­ally cited the “com­pletely un­ne­ces­sary dam­age on our eco­nomy” from the shut­down. Yet early eco­nom­ic in­dic­at­ors sug­gest the im­pact of the shut­down was far from dev­ast­at­ing, and it cer­tainly didn’t drive the U.S. eco­nomy back in­to re­ces­sion. “I don’t call the shut­down a good thing,” said Rep. Tom Cole, an Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an and a Boehner con­fid­ant. He said the gov­ern­ment clos­ure ob­scured more than two weeks of a broken Health­Care.gov web­site, and “ab­sent the Obama­care de­bacle, we’d still be bleed­ing.” But Cole did say the shut­down has changed the dy­nam­ics in the House for the bet­ter. With hind­sight, he said, Boehner was “un­ques­tion­ably a big win­ner.”

Then there are the ob­vi­ous polit­ic­al vic­tors: Obama, whose un­yield­ing stance broke the back of the GOP op­pos­i­tion and chilled the pre­ced­ent of us­ing must-pass le­gis­la­tion as polit­ic­al host­ages; Re­id, who got the fight he’d been de­mand­ing, and won; and House Demo­crats, who raised gobs of money.

Rep. Steve Is­rael, chair­man of the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, said in an email that Re­pub­lic­ans still have “nev­er ad­equately re­covered,” and ar­gued that the shut­down “just re­in­forced their brand as reck­less, ir­re­spons­ible, and out of touch.” The DCCC’s best day for on­line fun­drais­ing in 2013 was the 24 hours lead­ing up to the shut­down. And in the week after Cruz’s 21-hour fili­buster, the com­mit­tee hauled in $2 mil­lion on­line.

The shut­down fight cer­tainly helped Cruz ce­ment him­self as a house­hold name. The fresh­man sen­at­or from Texas is now a hero to the tea party, if not its de facto 2016 pres­id­en­tial stand­ard-bear­er. “It was a huge boost to Ted, be­cause the frus­tra­tion with a lot of the Re­pub­lic­ans and con­ser­vat­ives [is], it seems like Re­pub­lic­ans are nev­er up for a fight,” said Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Ex­press.

Cruz’s ad­visers firmly be­lieve the shut­down will con­tin­ue to pay di­vidends when the health care law fal­ters, which they see as in­ev­it­able, and the pub­lic re­mem­bers Cruz as the man who fought hard­est to stop it. “In terms of wheth­er we should’ve stood and fought on Obama­care, I think the proof is in the pud­ding,” Cruz told CBS’s Bob Schief­fer in late Janu­ary. “Mil­lions of people across the coun­try have seen now why we were stand­ing and fight­ing, be­cause Obama­care’s a dis­aster.”

Mean­while, the out­side con­ser­vat­ive groups that agit­ated for a show­down ad­ded reams of new mem­bers. The Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund col­lec­ted more than 2 mil­lion sig­na­tures on its de­fund­ing pe­ti­tion, pock­et­ing an army of new act­iv­ist email ad­dresses. In Decem­ber, the group hawked “Ted Cruz Was Right” bump­er stick­ers to try to turn those email ad­dresses in­to donors.

And while such groups have seen their in­flu­ence wane some­what in the halls of Con­gress since the shut­down, they won a more cyn­ic­al vic­tory. The most last­ing im­pact of the shut­down may be how it fur­ther eroded Amer­ic­ans’ fal­ter­ing trust in their gov­ern­ment — a boost to the tea party’s lim­ited-gov­ern­ment eth­os.

Faith in the in­sti­tu­tion has al­most nev­er been lower.

What We're Following See More »
WITHER TRUMP?
Jon Stewart May Debut on HBO Before the Election
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Jon Stewart could arrive on HBO in time for the November presidential election. In a Paley Media Council interview Thursday with CNN’s Brian Stelter, HBO CEO Richard Plepler was asked whether viewers could expect to see Stewart, former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” on HBO before the general election. 'Yeah, I’m hopeful,' Plepler said."

Source:
ALL RIDERS TO BE AFFECTED
Metro to Begin Rolling Closures Next Month
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Beginning next month, Metro will begin a series of "about 15 separate large-scale work projects," each of which will close down stations and/or sections of track for up to weeks at a time. The entire initiative is expected to take about a year. The Washington Post has a list of the schedule of closures, and which lines and stations they'll affect.

Source:
ANOTHER MEETING WITH PRIEBUS
Trump to Meet with Ryan, Leadership Next Week
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

A day after saying he could not yet support Donald Trump's presidential bid, House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited the billionaire to a meeting in Washington next week with House leadership. Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will also meet separately with Trump. 

Source:
‘EXACTING STANDARDS’
Obama on Trump: ‘This Is a Really Serious Job’
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Obama used the White House podium on Friday to dismiss Donald Trump as an unserious candidate to succeed him, and said leading the country isn't a job that's suited to reality show antics." At a briefing with reporters, the president said, "I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States. And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny."

Source:
MORE EXECUTIVE ORDERS
Panama Papers Spur White House to Crack Down on Evasion
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In the The White House on Thursday night unveiled a series of executive actions to combat money laundering—"among the most comprehensive response yet to the Panama Papers revelations." The president's orders will tighten transparency rules, close loopholes that allow "foreigners to hide financial activity behind anonymous entities in the U.S., and demand stricter “customer due diligence” rules for banks.

Source:
×