President Obama in 2012 expressed hope that “when we’re successful in this election … the fever may break” and Republicans would stop relentlessly obstructing everything in sight.
In May of this year he conceded, “it’s not quite broken yet.” Last week, Politico reported that the president never really believed the fever would ever break.
And yet, the re-election’s aspirin is starting to kick in.
First, let’s not forget the fever briefly subsided after the election. Sufficient numbers of Republicans voted to partially repeal their sacred Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, expand domestic violence protections for the LGBT community and temporarily suspend the debt ceiling.
Then Republicans relapsed. Budget gridlock triggered the sequester. Universal background checks for gun purchases were blocked. Routine nominations were stonewalled.
But in the past month, the fever has been subsiding.
The Senate cleared immigration reform on a solid bipartisan vote. The more conservative House may be acting squirrelly about it, but House leaders clearly have concluded that burying the issue is not an option. When the Speaker and Majority Leader slammed Rep. Steve King’s ridiculous comments about undocumented immigrant children, it further suggested they won’t let the anti-immigrant wing of the party dictate their direction.
Senate Republicans last week also relented on several presidential nominations, while tacitly conceding to Senate Majority Harry Reid that he retains the right to force a rule change if Republican filibusters get out of hand again.
This week, a majority of House Republicans voted to protect the National Security Agency from being gutted, instead of trying to use the Edward Snowden leak as cover to undermine the White House’s counterterrorism efforts. In fact, all of the Republicans attempts to put the White House under a cloud of scandal have fizzled out.
And in recent days, after some conservatives began making noise about taking the government hostage unless Obamacare is defunded, several prominent Republicans have ripped the idea, calling it “the dumbest”, sophomoric “shenanigans” and unseemly “blackmail.”
The repeal pushback is the most notable of the above developments, because it reveals the Republicans’ weak negotiating position with budget talks about to renew.
With the deadline to pass legislation keeping government open only two months away, Democrats are more united and Republicans are increasingly fractured.
President Obama has returned to the stump, rallying opposition to extending the sequester cuts and insisting on job-creating investments in infrastructure and education. With the deficit in rapid decline, the President saw no need to push budget-cutting ideas that divide Democrats such as “chained CPI.”
Meanwhile, Republicans have spent months floundering to find an excuse for taking the government hostage again. They have run for the hills on Social Security ever since the President called their bluff in April with his chained CPI proposal. Now top Republicans openly recoil at making Obamacare repeal their hostage-releasing demand, effectively acknowledging it would be political suicide. In turn, their appetite for any type of shutdown is called into question.
The Republican fever is breaking, and just in time. With Republicans more and more willing to reject nonsensical demands for government shutdown, President Obama should be able to gain the leverage needed to forge a budget deal in September that at least moves us away from the cliff’s edge of austerity.