Few would argue that anybody came out a "winner" after the disaster known as the government shutdown. The polls show that Americans are pretty much tired of everybody in Washington, and nobody sounded all that triumphant when it was over.
"There are no winners here," said White House press secretary Jay Carney after Senate leaders reached a deal to fund the government until January 15 and extend the debt ceiling to February 7. The House and the Senate are expected to pass the deal later tonight, ending our two-week-long national nightmare.
Still, some people were hurt more badly by the shutdown than others, which could have serious consequences in the world of politics — not to mention future budget battles.
After the dust settled, here is who came out on top, and who is licking their wounds.
Winners (Kind of)
President Barack Obama
Ever since the government shutdown began on October 1, the president maintained that he wouldn't negotiate over the debt ceiling, claiming that "Congress doesn't get to demand a ransom for doing their job."
Not that Obama is polling too well with the American public. But he stood his ground as Republicans took the majority of the blame for the shutdown, which will come in handy the next time he tangles with the GOP over the budget.
More importantly, he may have finally broken a debilitating cycle that has seen the GOP use the threat of economic calamity to win concessions from Democrats. That's good news for both Obama and future presidents.
This drama ostensibly started over the Affordable Care Act, but Obama's signature health-care law looks pretty much the same now as it did two weeks ago. If anything, the bickering in Washington distracted the media from ObamaCare's glaring technical problems, as users found themselves facing error messages, crashes, and delays while shopping online for health insurance.
In the debt ceiling deal, Democrats have reportedly thrown Tea Party Republicans a small bone in the form of slightly tougher income verification standards for insurance subsidies. But the law basically didn't change at all, and ObamaCare is actually slightly more popular with Americans now than it was before the shutdown:
The Democratic Party
While GOP lawmakers found themselves in constant conflict with each other, Democrats remained unified behind the president's message. The result? They ended up looking like the adults in this fiasco, and didn't have to give up anything major policy-wise to boot.
Granted, 43 percent isn't a great favorability rating, but it's way, way better than the 28 percent Republicans got in the same poll. Democrats might not get enough of a boost to win back the House. Still, it's a much more realistic scenario than it was before the shutdown started, and the Democrats should have a better chance of holding on to the Senate.
Tea Party Republicans
Yes, the GOP as a whole looks pretty bad. But the Tea Party Republicans who led the charge against ObamaCare look even worse.
Last week, a Gallup poll showed that only 21 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of the Tea Party, an all-time low. Tea Partiers have pretty much nothing to show for their efforts, and their loss reaches mind-boggling levels of ineptness when you consider that they could have won some concessions on the debt ceiling if they hadn't demanded that Democrats delay and defund ObamaCare.
Now, they face the very real possibility of losing seats in the House, especially in districts with moderate challengers waiting in the wings.
That has some Tea Party Republicans, like Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), playing down the events of the past few weeks, claiming that Republicans "never asked for a full repeal of ObamaCare."
The American economy
Yes, the country avoided total economic collapse, but at what cost? Around 800,000 federal workers spent two weeks without pay. Local economies surrounding national parks lost an estimated $76 million every day from lost visitors. And China, the country's largest creditor, used the shutdown as an argument for a "de-Americanized world," a mark of how badly the shutdown has hurt the U.S.'s global image.
Overall, the shutdown cost the government some $24 billion. All to end up right where we started.
Even without default, the government shutdown has "already led to the biggest plunge in consumer confidence since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008," reported The New York Times. It might take months for the Labor Department — which failed to release the September jobs report because of the shutdown — to fully assess the extent of the damage.
When it does, chances are the American people won't like what they see.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
It seems like Cruz, who watched his efforts to defund and delay ObamaCare fail miserably, would be the day's biggest loser. He was blasted by fellow Republicans. His hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, even revoked its endorsement of him from last year.
So why isn't Cruz worried about his Senate seat? Probably because his anti-ObamaCare theatrics resulted in a huge payday. His fundraising campaign pulled in nearly $800,000 over the last quarter, almost double what he raised the quarter before. While the rest of America might not love Cruz, his base and his donors still support him. Hello, 2016.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
After a bruising two weeks, the speaker finally got some love from fellow Republicans after he agreed to put a Senate deal up for a vote on the House floor. "I would give him an 'A.' I think he's done a very good job over the last few weeks," said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).
Whether or not that makes up for the humiliations he suffered during the shutdown is up for debate. Once again, he showed that his speakership is entirely beholden to his intransigent right flank. And it's hard to designate someone who graced this newspaper cover a winner:
Still, it looks likely that Boehner will keep his job, if only because he stood by the Tea Party to the bitter end. Oh, and nobody else wants it.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- The U.S. dollar has been strengthening for 3 straight years! (That's not good news.)
- Can we lead spiritually fulfilling lives without religion?
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
Subscribe to the Week