Winners and losers of the debt-limit fight


The 2013 fiscal showdown was ugly, especially for Republicans. [WATCH VIDEO]

Both parties have scoffed that there are winners and losers in the debate.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently said, “This isn’t a damn game!”

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday said “there are no winners” in the battle.

But in every political showdown, politicians rise and fall. This was no exception.

Winners

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). In 2011, Reid played a backseat role in the negotiations on lifting the debt ceiling. This time around, it was much different. Reid, a former boxer, stood in the middle of the ring as the House GOP bobbed and weaved. The wily Democrat, however, knew Republicans had no way out and would be forced to throw in the towel. Other than a gaffe in the middle of the battle, Reid played it perfectly.

President Obama. He was adamant about not negotiating with the GOP on the debt ceiling, and he deferred to congressional leaders on the day-to-day details. The strategy attracted criticism, but it worked.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Pelosi knows how to lean on her caucus, and her vow that all Democrats would reject this week’s hastily arranged House GOP bill was the beginning of its demise.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). The New Jersey governor’s stock for 2016 is rising, and he emphasized his Washington outsider credentials by recently saying, “If I were in the Senate, I’d kill myself.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The Budget Committee ranking member pressed the GOP for a “clean” fiscal bill. His protest on the House floor was a huge hit on YouTube, attracting more than 2 million views.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). The jobs of the Democratic campaign chiefs got a lot easier because of the shutdown. The GOP’s poll numbers plummeted, increasing the chances the Senate remains in Democratic hands. Republicans are still favored to retain the House, but it’s not the slam dunk that it used to be.

Congressional staffers. The amendment crafted by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) didn’t make it into the final bill. That measure would have eliminated the employer healthcare subsidies for congressional officials, something critics said would have led to “a brain drain” on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, staffers won’t have to worry about working Christmas Eve. The bill kicks the next fiscal showdown into early 2014.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Gray, who is mulling running for another term, took on both parties on the government shutdown, which significantly affected the D.C. government. The photo of the in-your-face showdown with Reid, which ran on Page 1 of The Washington Post, boosted Gray’s stock.

Terry McAuliffe. Before the shutdown, McAuliffe had expanded his lead over Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. The shutdown didn’t help Cuccinelli in a state filled with government workers and contractors.

Women lawmakers. Female legislators took a leading role in trying to craft a bipartisan deal. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) crafted a solution that didn’t catch fire, but she worked closely with a number of female senators on both sides of the aisle. Those members, who include Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), could form a new power base in the upper chamber.

Losers

Boehner and his lieutenants. Boehner didn’t fight the ObamaCare defunding strategy until it was too late. Then, he embraced it. Boehner and his leadership deputies came up with creative legislation to jab the Senate, but they had no exit strategy. The result was another failure to unite House Republicans against Obama and Reid. Once again, the House caved to the Senate.

Trust in government. Congressional approval ratings increased after lawmakers rejected military intervention in Syria. Weeks later, they dropped like a stone amid shutdown politics. Washington is as unpopular as ever.

The economy. The shutdown cost the fragile economy at least $24 billion, according to a new estimate by Standard & Poor’s. It was a self-inflicted wound.

Vice President Biden. The possible 2016 presidential candidate played almost no role in the deal-making, a striking contrast to prior fiscal battles. Biden is respected on both sides of the aisle, but some Democrats on Capitol Hill have not been fond of the vice president’s negotiations with the GOP. Last weekend, Biden was vacationing at Camp David. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cracked that Biden was in the witness protection program.

Immigration reform. Immigration was pushed to the side this fall, and the chances of a bill getting to Obama’s desk this Congress are slim.

GOP campaign committees. Donations to Republican committees seeking to retain the House and win the Senate are likely to take a hit. This was a demoralizing GOP defeat, and the hangover could last a while.

Mixed

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The GOP base loves Cruz, evidenced by his triumph in the presidential straw poll at the Values Voters Summit this month. But many establishment Republicans don’t like Cruz — at all. Winning a GOP presidential nomination usually requires the help of kingmakers in Washington, D.C., something Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has acknowledged through some of his actions. Cruz is taking a different path and will continue to take arrows in the back.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell has been hit by the left and the right for the deal, which he ironed out with Reid. Earlier this fall, McConnell was attacked by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for not being engaged. McConnell is being challenged in a primary but is favored to win. In the short term, the agreement hurts McConnell. But in the general election, it might help him. Win or lose, McConnell’s eleventh hour involvement cements his reputation as a legislator.

— Ian Swanson contributed.

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