My late, beloved grandmother loved to play poker. Her name was Doris. She wasn’t a World Series of Poker-level player. As a 5-year-old, I once helped her by pointing out that she was about to fold with a full house. The other ladies seated around the folding table in the rumpus room of her co-op building were none too pleased when I did.
One thing you ought not to do in poker is repeatedly overplay your hand—and the same maxim applies to politics. House Republican conservatives, known as the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” have done so repeatedly. This week, when the players in Congress finally laid down their cards, one woman—a grandmother of eight, in fact—took the pot. Her name is Nancy. Nancy Pelosi.
The House of Representatives is currently, er, blessed with the largest Republican majority since the 1928 elections brought us President Herbert
. Nevertheless, this week saw the passage of a budget deal where the members of that selfsame Republican majority voted no by a more than 2 to 1 margin. As for the minority party, 187 Democrats voted in favor. None said no. (Note: the Senate passed the deal 64-35, with all thirty-five no votes coming from members of the Republican majority.)
Let’s be clear about something: This was not a progressive budget. However, it is a significant improvement over the budgetary levels set by existing law that was put in place by the truly awful sequester—a barrier not easy to overcome given Republican majorities in the House and Senate. The New York Times called the deal a “clear victory” for President Obama, who said he was “pretty happy” about it. Jared Bernstein, considered a strong progressive and Vice President Biden’s former chief economic adviser, said of the deal: “there’s a lot in here the White House likes and not much they don’t.”