Don't-Tread-on-Meter: March 15, 2011:47
For months and months, Democrats were sure of it. The Tea Party was going to shut down the government. Republicans, bossed around by their Tea Party members, were never going to cut a deal and keep the government running. To hear the president's party talk, the Tea Party was out of control, hell-bent on destruction, a Gary Oldman villain in a mid-1990s action flick.
So how come the shutdown didn't happen? Because the Tea Party got strategic. In the deal hammered out late last week, Republicans got an estimated $38.5 billion in spending cuts for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year. That wasn't what they had wanted—it was at least $22 billion short. In that way, it was a minor cave-in, and a minor defeat. But in another, more important way, it was a win. The speaker of the House deftly used Tea Party pressure to extract concessions from the White House that Democrats had promised not to give.
What does the Tea Party get from a budget deal that's smaller than it wanted? After all, only 28 Republicans voted against the short-term deal that would fund the government until there could be a long-term bill, and only 15 of them were freshmen. They must know something. What they know: There will be two more chances to battle Democrats on the size of government and the bill for funding it. Getting this far means that they start halfway down the field in one month, when there will be a vote to raise the debt ceiling. Liberals like Paul Krugman have figured this out.
The Don't-Tread-on-Meter rises to 47.
What Is the Don't-Tread-on-Meter?
It will track the progress (or lack thereof) of the Republican House of Representatives, and the Republican conference in the Senate, in fulfilling the promises they made to Tea Party activists. The meter will hit 100 if and when the GOP does absolutely everything it promised.
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