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December 05, 2013 10:59 AM The Damage Long Forgotten

By Ed Kilgore

A brief passage at the end of a piece by Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner about the budget negotiations going on between Patty Murray and Paul Ryan got to the underlying political dynamics that I’m not sure a lot of folks quite get right now:

Though both Murray and Ryan have been praised for their efforts, it’s unclear how many House Republican votes Ryan could secure for an omnibus spending package at the higher [above the sequester] spending level. Those who would support such a deal — such as appropriators and moderates — would have been there for Rogers and leaders no matter what. The GOP force behind the shutdown was not the establishment, but rather tea-party-inspired members who feel beholden to their conservative base. So the key question over the next few weeks is whether the shutdown changed the political dynamics for the party based on a temporary dip in the polls.

That last phrase—temporary dip in the polls—is what’s significant. After the shutdown ended, there were about five minutes when Republicans paid attention to the damage the whole incident inflicted on the GOP’s approval ratings, before attention shifted to HealthCare.gov’s problems and the numbers all seemed to reverse.

Progressives and the MSM seem to generally believe Republicans “learned their lesson” during and after the shutdown. But what lesson was it? Don’t shut down the government when your opponent’s administration is in the midst of a “scandal” from which you and benefit? Don’t punch when you can counter-punch?

The point here is that Republicans have not had some sort of epiphany that guarantees reasonableness on fiscal issues going forward. Some may for strategic or tactical purposes prefer to make other issues the focus between now and next November, and that could even become the party line. But the idea that GOPers will never again shut down the government or threaten a debt default because of the terrible consequences of what happened in October is off-base. In their minds, the consequences were minor and ephemeral, and now long gone.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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