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Thursday Morning Political Mix

Good morning.

The newspapers hit the front porch this morning with a familiar thud. (Yes, some of us still like the feel of paper in the morning.)

"SHUTDOWN ENDS" shouted The Washington Post.


And online (yes, some of us also like the morning glow of our devices), the post-shutdown/debt crisis postmortems were piling up like so many pages of regulations in the Affordable Care Act.

But first, the details, quickly:

  • Congress, with alacrity, late Wednesday passed a debt and spending bill that Obama signed shortly after midnight today. Here's a breakdown of the 285-144 House vote.
  • Federal workers, about 450,000 of them, were expected to be back at their jobs today, joining the 1.3 million who worked during the 16-day shutdown.
  • And the U.S. government is funded through Jan. 15; its borrowing capacity raised through Feb. 7. A good Washington Post Q&A helps sort out the deal's details.
  • Now, to the fallout.

    First, a right hook from conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. He's in the small but vociferous camp critical of Republican leaders for not continuing the doomed shutdown/default brinksmanship. Here's what he had to say:

    "And what they've ended up doing is creating one of the greatest political disasters I've ever seen in my lifetime, simply because they failed to show up" Limbaugh said. "Then when they finally did make a play of showing up, they didn't have the guts to stick with it."

    There's more of that out there from the Tea Party wing of the GOP, including Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who led the insurgents' failed effort to link Obamacare defunding to the budget deal. He turned on his own party colleagues in the Senate, telling conservative radio host Mark Levin that Senate Republicans blew it when they "didn't stand united alongside House Republicans."

    But the preponderance of commentary from Republicans, and conservative Republicans, is far different.

    Kevin Williamson, writing for the conservative National Review, says he sees one overarching lesson from the manufactured crisis: Want to win the big government arguments? Nothing beats a majority. Win gains in the Senate, take the White House and then govern.

    Here's Williamson: "For all the counterfactuals — 'If only my guy had been the nominee,' 'If only a Republican would make this speech,' 'If only my pet constitutional amendment with zero chance of passing would be submitted nonetheless,' 'If only my magic-bullet tax plan would be adopted,' etc. — the lesson of the shutdown showdown is that there really is no substitute for winning. Job No. 1 is ensuring that the Democrats control no larger a share of Senate seats than they do of state legislatures. That, and the long, dreary business of responsible governance."

    At the American Spectator, Ross Kaminsky's piece carries this headline: "For serious Republicans, yesterday's agreement couldn't have turned out worse." He calls on GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to take the lead in coming budget negotiations and urges Republicans to let Obamacare continue its "inevitable collapse."

    "Obamacare will tell its own sad story," he says, "letting it do so is the best way for American voters to hear the story in a way they will believe."

    And Kaminsky, who respectfully called out conservative groups like Heritage Action for pushing the doomed no-compromise strategy, urges Cruz to "play along" with Senate Republicans — good luck on that — and says House Republicans must try to regain "some standing, some moral authority, a public sense of being something more than a bunch of undisciplined radicals."

    And, finally, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat held nothing — or little — back in his late-night blog post, "A Teachable Moment." Douthat, co-author of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, decried what he characterized as the mentality that drove the shutdown "a toxic combination of tactical irrationality and the elevation of that irrationality into a True Conservative (TM) litmus test" and its persistence. And he warned party populists about the peril of pulling "this kind of stunt again."

    Here's Douthat: "So for undeluded conservatives of all persuasions, lessons must be learned. If the party's populists want to shape and redefine and ultimately remake the party, they can't pull this kind of stunt again. If the party's leadership wants to actually lead, whether within the G.O.P. or in the country at large, they can't let this kind of stunt be pulled again. That's the only way in which this pointless-seeming exercise could turn out to have some sort of point: If it's long remembered, by its proponents and their enablers alike, as the utter folly that it was."

    We'll give the last word to the ever entertaining, like him or not, Barney Frank, the former longtime Massachusetts congressman.

    House Republicans, he muses, must be smoking something. "One of the causes that I've been pushing is to legalize the smoking of marijuana by adults instead of locking them up," he said during an appearance on MSNBC. "And apparently that may be more widespread among the Republican House members than I had thought, because that's the only explanation I can think for this particular extreme mellowness that they are [showing]."

    Also worth a read, the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib, on whether the point Republicans made was worth the price.

    In other news, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, 44, a Democrat, was easily elected to the U.S. Senate Wednesday, becoming the first black senator from the Garden State. He'll be one of two African Americans in the upper chamber.

    His morning after tweet: "Have great dreams & bold ambition but never forget that the biggest thing you can do in any day is a small act of kindness, decency or love."

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

    Liz Halloran joined NPR in December 2008 as Washington correspondent for Digital News, taking her print journalism career into the online news world.
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