Playbook: Anatomy of a Shutdown

ted cruz(Community Matters) Playbook: Obama, weak politically, “gets up every day and reads the newspaper and thanks God that Ted Cruz is in the United States Senate,’ a Republican senator pointedly told Cruz at a closed-door meeting. …”

TICK-TOCK — “Anatomy of a shutdown,” by John Bresnahan, Manu Raju, Jake Sherman and Carrie Budoff Brown: “Speaker John Boehner just wanted to sneak out of the White House for a smoke. But President Obama pulled him aside for a grilling. Obama wanted to know why they were in the second day of a government shutdown that the speaker had repeatedly and publicly pledged to avoid. ‘John, what happened?’ Obama asked … ‘I got overrun, that’s what happened,’ Boehner said. It may be the most concise explanation of a chaotic, 16-day standoff that prompted the first government shutdown in nearly two decades … The House Republican conference ran roughshod over Boehner … He was overtaken by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who swept in near the end to forge a bipartisan agreement, part of an attempt to shield Republicans from further damage and salvage his party’s chances of winning back the Senate … Republicans never believed Obama would hold firm on his refusal to negotiate and Democrats would maintain an unusual level of cohesion – united by a visceral desire to put the tea party in its place and an almost mama grizzly instinct to protect Obamacare. ‘It was not a smart play,’ McConnell said Thursday of the GOP’s Obamacare strategy. ‘It had no chance of success.’

“Obama and Reid stuck together, emerging as the political victors .

Their hard-ball tactics were designed to ‘break the fever’ brought on by the tea party, but it also helped drive the country to the edge of default. Republicans cycled through every option possible during the three-week standoff to save face. Their Obamacare demands devolved from repeal and defund to a delay of the individual mandate. They revived the idea of a ‘grand bargain’ on taxes and government spending but Reid openly laughed when Boehner raised it during a White House meeting. They offered a more narrow proposal to replace the sequester cuts for two years. Then, they went back to Obamacare. Nothing worked. When things were at their worst, some Republican senators urged Vice President Biden to get more involved. But he told each of them it wasn’t his call. …

“By Wednesday, Republicans just needed a way out , agreeing to a bill that looked almost identical to what they rejected three weeks earlier: a debt-limit increase until Feb. 7, an extension of federal funding through Jan. 15 and no binding strings attached. … McConnell told his colleagues this week that his party should ‘never’ be put in the same political position again … Boehner miscalculated: he assumed House Republicans only wanted a show vote. Instead, they wanted so much more, determined to nullify the health care law and use a government shutdown and threat of a debt-limit default to get there. … In the run-up to the shutdown, Obama was weak politically; his Syria strategy was panned by both parties; Obamacare was suffering poor poll numbers; and Republicans thought they had him on the ropes. Yet Cruz’s anti-Obamacare drive played right into Democratic hands. ‘The president gets up every day and reads the newspaper and thanks God that Ted Cruz is in the United States Senate,’ a Republican senator pointedly told Cruz at a closed-door meeting. …

“The White House received intelligence from an unlikely source: Boehner’s former chief of staff Barry Jackson. A lobbyist who spoke with Jackson passed on a detailed download to top administration officials. Chief among the insights was that Boehner would have to fight right up to the … deadline. … Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) teed off on Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), lambasting him for what she considered a failed strategy with no way out. Cruz arrived late, but Ayotte wanted Cruz to hear this, too. She repeated her remarks, this time directing them at Cruz, too. ‘He is so incredibly immature,’ sniffed one GOP senator … The lashing humbled Cruz, who began to take a quieter role in the intervening days. But he continued to push forward on strategy that Republicans had essentially left for dead. … Rep. Paul Ryan … decided to not engage in the government funding fight – he saw it as noise without any real impact on the larger issue. The Wisconsin Republican thought it would get resolved, and then he and Boehner could negotiate with Obama on a budget deal. As long as he had sequester spending levels, Ryan told colleagues on the House floor, he thought he could complete an entitlement and tax reform deal. The process, as some envisioned, would move through regular order, with legislative targets and an outline for a major rewrite of the U.S. tax code. …

“Ryan had published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal … entitled: ‘Here’s How We Can End This Stalemate.’ (He had knocked his fellow Young Gun off the page, coveted conservative real estate. Cantor was also in line: he thought The Journal would run his piece that day. Cantor’s piece ended up in The Washington Post.) … It was a veteran Republican senator, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who McConnell instead leaned on closely for some critical advice. [Sen. Susan] Collins was upset when she learned Alexander was given this role, given that she had been working aggressively to cut a deal. McConnell aides later said Collins was critical to the end-result and nothing was meant as a slight against her. But Alexander was important because his politics are more conservative than Collins’ and he has a tight relationship with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Reid’s closest ally.” http://goo.gl/y0haJW

PRESIDENT OBAMA, “Remarks by the President on the Reopening of the Government,” State Dining room: “[W]e know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in THIS TOWN has never been higher. … [T]o all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in THIS TOWN has to change. Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people — and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust. Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it. …

“Let me be specific about three places where I believe we can make progress right now. First, in the coming days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget … Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system. … Number three, we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve. … I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done. And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis. …

“I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you. Thanks for your service. Welcome back. What you do is important. It matters.

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