After two weeks of madness, with only hours to go before the U.S. government potentially defaulted on its loans, Congress finally passed a new budget and raised the debt ceiling last night. Thanks to the last-minute deal, we have at least three months before we have to worry about another impasse and impending global economic catastrophe – and sadly, these days, that's what we call progress.
While Tea Party Republicans succeeded in shutting down a wide range of key government services and nearly destroying the country's credit rating, they were unable to change virtually anything about the newly opened health care exchanges they hate so much. (They did manage one small tweak: Now a person must have his or her income verified prior to receiving a subsidy for an insurance premium.)
But even as the Affordable Care Act remains unscathed, the political landscape has shifted drastically since the standoff. Here are the biggest winners and losers from the government shutdown.
LOSER: Speaker of the House John Boehner.
When Boehner stated, "We fought the good fight, we just didn't win," the "we" he was referencing was mostly himself. The Ohio Republican spent a large portion of the shutdown refusing to allow a clean continuing resolution to go before the full House – even though he knew one could very likely pass – simply to appease his Tea Party caucus. When he finally did attempt to negotiate a House bill to reopen the government and end the shutoff, he still couldn't get a simple majority, despite his party having 32 more seats than the Democrats. If the outrage on Boehner's Facebook page is any indication, this may be the end of the road for his time as Speaker.
WINNER: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Cruz hasn't even been in office for a year, and he already shut down the entire government. That ended up being a total fiasco if you ask most rational observers – but it did set him up nicely as the hot right-wing fringe pick for the 2016 presidential primary. As ThinkProgress reports, Cruz managed to collect 2 million email addresses for himself and other members of the "Senate Conservative Fund," as well as raising nearly $800,000 in the last quarter for his personal PAC. Most of that money appears to have been filtering in as Sen. Cruz was filibustering and advocating for the very government shutdown that just ended.
LOSER: The Tea Party.
Unsurprisingly, after weeks of futile grandstanding, no one seems to like these folks anymore – not even their own party. A new Pew Research poll has a Tea Party approval rating of just 30 percent. Among self-described moderate Republicans, the approval rating drops to 27 percent. For comparison's sake, the number of conservatives who still believe President Obama is a Muslim is also around 30 percent.
LOSER: The U.S. Economy
The government shutdown took about $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, cutting 0.6 percent off this year's fourth- quarter growth, according to Standard & Poor's. Even worse, the financial research company expects consumer confidence to continue to be shaken, which could have lasting effects down the road – especially since we will likely play another game of fiscal chicken at the beginning of 2014. And S&P's estimate could be a low-ball: Moody's Analytics has estimated the costs of the shutdown at closer to $55 billion, about the same as the economic costs of Hurricane Katrina.
The Affordable Care Act didn't get defunded, delayed or gutted in any of the ways that the GOP initially wanted – a fact that sort of makes you wonder what the point of this whole ordeal really even was. Meanwhile, new polling has Obamacare more popular than ever, with just 38 percent of Americans opposing health care reform at this point. Even more interesting, one side effect of the shutdown may have been to inadvertently make the ACA even more successful. After all, the Congressional standoff acted as a lead story most days, taking the media spotlight off of the early computer glitches in the federal and state exchanges.
LOSER: Poor people.
Furloughed government workers are likely to eventually receive back pay, so for those who were able to dip into savings, the shutdown likely wasn't a huge financial hardship. But for those who live paycheck to paycheck, it was a much bigger deal. The thousands of Americans who were unable to apply for new benefits through the Social Security Administration, the low-income preschoolers who lost Head Start, families who were counting on WIC benefits before some centers ran out of funds and countless others will never see any compensation for the impact that the shutdown had on them.
WINNER: Senate women.
Women currently hold only 20 of the 100 seats in the Senate (and the ratio in the House is even worse) – yet when it came to ending the stalemate, it was the women of the Senate who got the government up and running again. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the force behind the drafting of the final plan, and her female colleagues on both sides of the aisle were instrumental in making the bipartisan bill a reality. For a Congressional body that has been rightfully criticized for silencing the voices of women over the last few years, it is a welcome change and, hopefully, a harbinger of things to come.
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