Much has been made of the Republican in-fighting over the debt ceiling vote, waging freshman tea partiers against more veteran Members of Congress. It's a topic the media loves writing about, but in the case of the debt ceiling debate and the final package that is passed, it misses the real story. What's begun to come out of Washington in the last day is actually the completely opposite narrative — conservatives are coalescing around Speaker Boehner and are looking increasingly likely to get a deal that horrifies liberals.
With news this morning that rising star Congressman Cory Gardner and a coterie of key conservative freshmen will support the Boehner plan, momentum is moving in the direction of a conservative dominated deal. Support is moving in Boehner's direction as the Congressional Budget Office reports that Boehner's revised plan will cut the deficit dollar-for-dollar in relation to the debt ceiling raise, which has been a basic tenet for conservative support all along.
It is a far cry from the "clean" debt ceiling hike demanded by liberals only weeks ago.
Even Harry Reid and Obama's latest offer would infuriate liberals, and the final deal most likely will be even more anathema to the left.
Even the least painful resolution to the crisis – a plan backed by Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that is a cocktail of deep cuts in discretionary public spending and infrastructure improvements without a whiff of the tax-the-wealthy agenda that has been a staple Democratic demand – is poison to many progressives.
“Every policy outcome for liberals is a loss at this point,” said a senior party operative, reflecting the prevailing view among progressives that the alternatives mulled by Obama in the debt talks range from the awful to the unthinkable.
Despite the headaches that the 87 person freshmen class of conservatives have given Speaker Boehner at times, they have actually been an enormous strength in negotiating. When Obama would offer a bill with large tax increases Boehner could honestly tell him he couldn't get the votes for such a bill.
This negotiating position and the fact that the debate is now around how much to cut, not whether to cut, means conservatives have owned the framing of the argument. And liberals are not pleased.
A recent Washington Post poll showed liberals who "strongly" support Obama's performance on jobs has fallen over 20 points from 53 percent to 31 percent. Even among Obama's strongest base, African Americans, his approval rating on the economy has collapsed from 77 percent to slightly over 50.
What this all really means, assuming the final deal includes cuts of at least $2 Trillion from the debt without tax increases, is that conservatives spanked liberals in a city where they only control one of three levers of the legislative process.
It's almost reminiscent of the teacher tenure reform bill last year in the Colorado Legislature, SB 191, which conservatives passed despite not controlling even a single chamber of the Legislature, nor the Governor's office.
The pendulum has swung again, and it's clear that it's back on the right side of the divide.