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Politics & Government

Shutdown Is Wrapped Up, But Other Issues Are Starting To Unfold


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

The U.S. is back from the brink this weekend after a deal to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling. But is Groundhog Day just ahead? The deal that avoided the cliff this week provided for a compromised budget by mid December and the U.S. government is only funded through January 15.

NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: So was the political fallout from this so staggering that it can never happen again, and certainly not in the next few months?

ELVING: With that were the case but not for next few months probably and let's be optimistic for once. Let's say that maybe the lessons this time will linger a little longer and let's face it, the Republicans have really some serious wounds to lick after this past week. And while some of them enjoy the combat, most do not want the casualties.

SIMON: Now, is Speaker Boehner politically damaged goods now? Or did some House Republicans learn a lesson he'd been urging on them for a while?

ELVING: The speaker has suffered through days of public humiliation at the hands of his fractious troops. But sometimes what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And by surviving all of this, he has probably strengthened what's always been a rather tenuous grip on the speakership. In the end, he did the right thing - we talked about this in the past - and kept government and borrowing authority going forward. And probably he'll have a better weekend this weekend than he had last.


SIMON: Certainly more free time. I think a lot of people are wondering this weekend: is Senator Ted Cruz a new national figure or a diminished one, after events of this past week?

ELVING: You could say he's both. Certainly he is new hero of the Tea Party and others who wanted to stop the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, by any means necessary. At the Value Voters Summit, for example, here about a week ago, he absolutely dominated the presidential preference straw poll on social conservatives. But within the establishment of the Republican Party, in the financial community and among party fundraisers, he has come to be regarded as dangerous.

SIMON: And a hard word and that raises this question. Against what's been the stereotype, the image for many years, Democrats appeared unified over these past few weeks, and the Republicans who looked like they were - what's the old joke they used to make about Democrats - a circular firing squad? What's happened to the two major parties?

ELVING: It's at least a momentary and historic role reversal, as just as you described it. And maybe not just for the moment. The Democrats have not been this unified since, well, maybe ever. And the Republicans have not been this divided since the late 1970s with, say, the Ronald Reagan versus Gerald Ford primaries and the Panama Canal fight.

The Tea Party represents a direct challenge for control of the Republican brand and it could have profound effects in the years to come.

SIMON: Finally, we of course learned yesterday that Tom Foley, who served as speaker of the House from 1989 to 1995, has died. In remembering speaker Foley, do you think there's a lesson there for Speaker Boehner?

ELVING: Yes, I do. Tom Foley wanted very much to be seen as speaker of the whole House, not just the leader of one party. He wanted to be the speaker of the House. And himself, he was a New Deal Democrat and he represented a rural Western, historically Republican district. It was Republican before him and went back to being Republican afterwards. So he understood the dynamic of bipartisanship, of crossing the aisle, of listening - as he like to say - to the other guy's point of view. He used to say he felt a little bit cursed with his ability to understand the other guy's point of view.

He wanted the House to work its will as a body. But often could not control all the divisions within his own Democratic caucus. So, in the end, that led to the end of 40 years of Democratic majority rule in 1994. And that may be the lesson here for John Boehner.

SIMON: Ron, thanks so much. Ron Elving, NPR's Washington editor.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.