Shut It Down: It’s a Win for Obama and Cruz

Why the president and his Tea Party rival both have something to gain in this government face-off.

President Barack Obama (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (Gage Skidmore/Wikemedia Commons)
President Barack Obama (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images); Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (Gage Skidmore/Wikemedia Commons)

Now, though, Cruz’s crusade may lead to a government shutdown on the same day that Obamacare’s state health insurance exchanges are scheduled to launch — giving the president a window to spotlight the issue again. And so far, he’s made the most of it.

He told a Maryland crowd last Thursday that once Obamacare launches, they’ll want to “get covered.” And he tweaked opponents by predicting, wryly, that “once it’s working really well, I guarantee you they will not call it Obamacare.”

Don’t expect one speech to turn the tables in the president’s favor, but that’s a lot better than his old 2009 mantra: “bending the cost curve.”

So what happens next? If you’re like most people, you’ve got more pressing things to do than follow the play-by-play in Congress. But to recap: House Republicans passed a bill to fund the government — but not Obamacare. The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected it Friday, sending a bill back to the House without any provision touching Obamacare. Then, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the House passed what they called a compromise bill, proposing only to delay Obamacare for a year, instead of defunding it.

Which is like saying they won’t break Obama’s legs; they’ll just break one of his thumbs.

Cruz and Obama might still wind up as culprits if budget gridlock turns into a prolonged shutdown or another debt ceiling crisis in October — especially if it turns out like 2011, when markets dipped after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s credit rating.

But for the moment, Obama — who’s never liberal enough for Democrats and never gets the benefit of the doubt from Republicans — now has a foil who’s making it easier for him to stand up for his health care initiative and outline his budget priorities. And Cruz gets to show that he’s first among equals when it comes to opposing anything linked to Obama.

Meanwhile, federal employees will be furloughed, any salary that they forfeit won’t be spent in a still-fragile economy and Congress’s inability to make a deal will eventually threaten another loss of confidence in the markets.

For everyone else, in other words, it’s a lose-lose.

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.