Who Won the “Debt Debate”?

The first match in the current showdown over government spending goes to the GOP. Not that all Republicans favor the deal that has now been approved by the House and Senate, but it’s clear that Republicans are generally happier than Democrats about the deal.

The votes of House Republicans split 174-66 (for-against), while House Democrats voted 95-95. Senate Republicans voted 28-19; Senate Democrats 46-7 (counting Lieberman and Sanders as Democrats). Senate Republicans who voted against the deal had the comfort of knowing that (a) it had been approved by the House and (b) it was widely expected to be approved by the Senate.

On the whole, Republicans in Congress gave the deal far more support than Democrats:

  • Republican votes in favor — 72 percent of House Republicans, 60 percent of Senate Republicans, and 69 percent of Republicans in the two chambers.
  • Democrat votes in favor — 50 percent of House Democrats; 87 percent of Senate Democrats, and 58 percent of Democrats in the two chambers.

The overall results, I think, are a good gauge of the attitudes in the parties. Republicans have good reason to be happier than Democrats. Obama had to pay a price for getting the debt ceiling raised, and that price (at least for now) consists entirely of spending cuts (inasmuch as reductions in planned spending increases can be called cuts).

Chalk up a victory for Republicans, especially the Tea Party kind. Yes, Tea Partiers would have preferred real spending cuts, but without the pressure they brought to bear on Republican leaders, the outcome would have been far worse — perhaps even Obama’s preferred “clean” increase in the debt ceiling, without any strings attached.

Another thing Tea Partiers should be proud of is that “liberal” Democrats are enraged by the debt deal. (Jonah Goldberg’s take is here.) Their rage is the clearest indication of a Tea-Party-inspired Republican victory.

There are several matches yet to come in this running “debate” about the size of government and its role in the lives of Americans. The most important match will conclude on November 6, 2012, with the election of a president, 435 U.S. representatives, and one-third of U.S. senators. The replacement of Obama by a Republican, coupled with the GOP’s retention of the House and capture of the Senate, would put an end to the “gridlock” in Washington and put the U.S.