From The Guardian:
It was easy wandering round the corridors of Congress yesterday to spot who had won the debt standoff. In huddles with party colleagues or heading off to caucus meetings to discuss the details of the deal or standing in front of TV cameras, it was the Republicans who had all the smiles.
Democratic members of Congress looked uneasy, at times shifty; and some downright were angry. “If I were a Republican, this is a night to party,” Emanuel Cleaver, a Democratic member of the House from Missouri, told MSNBC. Cleaver, a Methodist pastor and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, which met to discuss its reaction to the deal, dismissed it as a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich”.
Even the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, who helped negotiate the compromise with Barack Obama and the Republican leaders at the weekend, had serious reservations. Pelosi, a Californian on the liberal wing of the party on many issues, picked up on Cleaver’s food metaphor and expanded on it. The deal, she told ABC, was a “Satan sandwich with Satan fries on the side”. She voted last night for the bill to raise the debt ceiling, which passed by 269 to 161, but told colleagues in advance she would leave it to their consciences how they voted.
Republicans aligned to the Tea Party movement voted against but even they did not appear unhappy with the deal. In return for Congress raising the debt ceiling, normally a routine matter, the Republicans have secured more than $2 trillion in spending cuts and forced the Democrats to do this without any tax rises. The Tea Party Republicans did not get all they wanted but they got most of it, and sacrificed almost nothing in return.
The decisive day in Congress after weeks of a standoff was Sunday, when the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, in negotiation with Barack Obama, reached agreement on the broad outline of a deal. Congress itself was eerily quiet. The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, warned his fellow Democratic senators to remain on Capitol Hill.
One of the left-leaning Democrats in the House, Raul Grijalva, from Arizona, reflected the view of many of his party colleagues, that the White House had surrendered too much: “This deal trades people’s livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it. This deal weakens the Democratic party as badly as it weakens the country.
“We have given much and received nothing in return. The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want.”
What is galling for Democrats is that they hold the White House and the Senate while the Republicans hold only the House, the more junior of the two chambers. And yet is it the House that appears to be dictating events.
One of the few independents in the Senate and one of the few American politicians to describe himself as a socialist, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, voted against. Expressing worry about the impact on social security, Medicare, Medicaid, community health centres, education and other programmes, he said he could not support a proposal that “balances the budget on the backs of struggling Americans while not requiring one penny of sacrifice from the wealthiest people in our country”.
The House Speaker, John Boehner, addressing his own members, said that while the Republicans had not got everything they had wanted (such as an assurance that the Pentagon will not be a major victim of spending cuts), they had got most of it and changed the debate in Washington.
But his stance failed to sway the Tea Party Republicans, such as Michele Bachmann, the Congresswoman who is seeking the party’s nomination to take on Obama for the White House next year. She voted against.
Boehner had better luck with other potential rebels. First he used policy arguments, but he saved his best for last: He told his colleagues that if they voted for the bill they could embark on a five-week holiday immediately afterwards. For a few waverers, that might have done the trick.