Michael Barone

Everyone seems pretty cross at this juncture in the fight over raising the debt limit. As this is written, the House has just passed the bill that Speaker John Boehner yanked from the floor Thursday night and then revised with a balanced-budget amendment on Friday. The Senate has yet to pass Majority Leader Harry Reid's measure that in many but not all respects is not that much different.

It looks like the Senate will approve Reid's measure and that the two bills, framed in a way that makes compromise relatively easy, will be melded into one version that could be passed by bipartisan majorities of both houses in time to meet the supposedly hard deadline of Tuesday, Aug. 2.

But it's not certain everything will work out, and in the meantime nobody's very happy about the whole situation.

Democrats seem especially unhappy. They could have avoided the fight in the first place by raising the debt ceiling in the lame duck session in December, when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress.

But they decided not to. Reid's comments then suggested that he expected the issue to split the House Republicans, pitting the leadership against the 87 Tea Party-sympathizing freshmen. The leaders would have to agree to a tax increase in order to get a deal, with a party schism like the one that followed George H.W. Bush's agreement to a tax increase in 1990.

That didn't happen. Instead Reid abandoned his demand for a tax increase. The reason, I think, is that he hasn't had a 50-vote majority for a tax increase in the Senate, just as Senate Democrats haven't been able to pass a budget.

All of which left Barack Obama looking somewhat ridiculous when he called for more taxes in his televised speech Monday night. When you're trying to show you're leading and your followers have already gone off in another direction, you tend to look like something other than a leader.

Some Democrats, in frustration, have said House Republicans are acting "almost like a dictatorship" or are using "terrorist tactics." But in opposing tax increases, House Republicans are just being true to the voters who gave them in November 2010 a larger majority than they have won since 1946.

Other Democrats have taken to blaming Obama. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, decries an empty bully pulpit. Paul Krugman, the trade economist who writes partisan vitriol for The New York Times, talks about a centrist copout.

Such complaints seem to ignore a lesson that Democrats were happy to teach Republicans after November 2008: Elections have consequences.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM