At almost literally the 11th hour, Congress approved and President Obama signed legislation that ended a costly 16-day partial government shutdown and averted the potentially greater disaster of a default on federal obligations.
Cobbled together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), the deal is minimalist. It funds the federal government through Jan. 15 and authorizes the Treasury to borrow through Feb. 7 — or longer, if the department takes “extraordinary measures.”
It also creates new fraud-prevention procedures for Obamacare. That’s about all Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and his followers in the House have to show for their effort to “defund” the health-care law by shutting the government.
Two northwest Ohio House members, Republicans Bob Latta and Jim Jordan, made their priorities clear by voting against the deal. As many of his GOP colleagues foresaw, what Mr. Cruz billed as a principled stand for freedom and against welfare-statism was the political equivalent of a toddler’s tantrum.
The compromise buys only a short interval of peace, during which a House-Senate conference committee is supposed to come up with a longer-term fiscal fix — including, we hope, entitlement reforms and a more rational alternative to the sequester.
Given recent history, though, it is all too possible that Congress will fail to agree and will deliver the country to the brink of another shutdown or default.
For both the GOP and the country, the silver lining in this debacle could be a measure of clarification. Experience has shown that a no-compromise strategy is doomed to fail. Those who advocated it within the GOP camp, and effectively neutered House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, must be brought to heel by cooler-headed leaders in the caucus.
This won’t be easy. A well-funded apparatus headed by outside groups, such as Club for Growth and Heritage Action, stands behind the Cruz faction. These groups threaten to support a primary challenge to any House member or senator who does not toe their line.
Though hardly unconstitutional, as some have suggested, the groups’ brand of politics is what you might call counterconstitutional. Contrary to the Founders’ purpose, which was to minimize the power and influence of factions, this unelected minority exerts pressure through indirect channels, purposely disrupting consensus and defeating compromise.
The past few weeks have shown that the GOP ultraright cannot be appeased. That leaves the party no responsible choice but to confront it. This week’s deal gives Mr. Boehner and other GOP leaders something they little deserve but greatly need: a do-over.
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