It Is Still About Leadership
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Presumably round one is over, but, unfortunately, the worst is yet to come. Twenty-four hours late and with a divided majority party in the House, Congress stopped the presumed cliff fall. It was hardly picturesque and no matter how it was packaged no one won anything except a false sense of time. The totally unnecessary, protracted debate in and with the Congress proved nothing except that no one is in charge.
After hours of internal caucuses and meetings with every faction and possible group on Capitol Hill, even the House Speaker and his own party’s Majority Leader voted on difference sides in the final vote. Republican may have issues with the Democrats, but for Boehner and Cantor to be unable to both suck it up and vote to support the compromise says legions about their party’s disarray. All the explanations about primary challenges and Tea Party agendas were obviously still more important than a bit of party unity at the end. (Until the hue and cry occurred on the day after the vote, the House could not even face the humanitarian needs posed to millions of Americans in three states by hit by Hurricane Sandy, and pass emergency legislation to extend immediate relief to those who are waiting for federal government relief.)
At the same time it apparently took Vice President Biden to finally sit down with Senators McConnell and Reid to work out the eventual Senate compromise which the House accepted a day late. It seemed that President still was unable to play hardball or inside trading to cut a deal like the old Washington pros. Obama has learned little from his previous brinksmanship battles during his first four years. Even his public statement in the White House press room as a pep rally with his fans surrounding him was embarrassing. It was not a respectful response to the seriousness of the crisis or evidence of someone who appreciates how tough the political sledding ahead will be.
As was said by so many talking heads over the past 48 hours, the budgetary crisis is not over, the continuing resolution is expiring, and raising debt ceiling—the most critical factor of all—is nowhere near to be being resolved. The country may well want to be focused on the serious domestic issues like gun control, immigration reform, and energy. The President may have much to say about these issues in his State of Union Address, but they will never see the light of day until the new Congress gets organized enough to tackle sequestration, debt ceiling, and the 2013 fiscal year budget.