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"Endgame?" Continued...

But another freshmen, Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp, depicted the deal as being another example of Washington's tricks and gimmicks. "These are paltry cuts compared to the $14.3 trillion in debt we already have, and the $7 trillion in new debt we can expect in the next decade," he said, adding that he is frustrated that lawmakers were asked to vote in the eleventh hour for a bill that the public had less than a day to read. "The culture of fiscal irresponsibility may not have been created by this Congress, but we were sent here to put an end to it. I'm afraid this bill does not rise to that occasion."

But the concerns of congressional Republicans have been mild compared to their protests last week leading up to a Boehner-drafted compromise that failed in the Senate.

And on the other side of the aisle, since Obama announced the final deal Sunday night, some of the biggest cries of anger have come from his liberal base. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, said the compromise "may be the single worst piece of public policy to ever come out of this institution." She added in a House floor speech Monday, "Democrats conceded time after time, provision after provision on this deal. These cuts will be loaded onto the backs of seniors and the American middle class."

Vice President Joe Biden spent time on Capitol Hill Monday trying to rally Democratic support for the deal. But the resentment of the most liberal wing of Democrats and its clear disappointment in Obama could reverberate thorough the rest of this congressional session.

In the end, a deal that disappoints a wing of conservatives and upsets a wing of liberals was likely the most realistic outcome in such a divided Congress. The lasting legacy of this often-acrimonious debate is that some Republicans and Democrats did finally unite in forcing some spending cuts. Since the congressional session began in January, lawmakers have secured an almost 8 percent reduction in spending over the next 10 years.

"This is a down payment on the problem," said Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee. "It's a good step in the right direction. And it is a huge cultural change to this institution. Both parties got us in this mess; both parties are going to have to work together to get us out."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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