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Of Course It's a Bad Deal

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Who here is really disappointed with the debt ceiling deal? I know I am, and I have not even studied it in detail yet. Once again, we have to compromise. Once again, we have to swallow something we hate. But what do you expect? We, the Republicans, threw the 2022 midterm elections away. Well, it turns out that elections have consequences, particularly blown ones. And right now, we're experiencing a consequence colonoscopy.

I really would have liked the GOP under Kevin McCarthy to force the Democrats to accept a budget deal that achieved all our objectives and focused on all our priorities. Whatever this compromise does – and, as of this writing, I have not parsed it closely – it will not do that. Some people are really disappointed right now. I get it, but I think they should have been really disappointed six months ago when we fumbled the midterm elections. That's when this outcome became inevitable. 

Here's the thing about exercising power – you have to have some first. Right now, holding only the House of Representatives, and that by a thread, our power is the power to say "No." That's the worst kind of power because, at some point, you must say "Yes." You can only hope to get something for saying so earlier rather than later, but you are going to say so eventually, one way or the other.

And it gets worse. We have a tiny four-vote margin for the GOP, and one of them is the amazing George Santos, who is likely to soon change his name to Prisoner No. 813265852. And the Republican mini-majority is divided, with squishes, hardcores, and a bunch of people in between. You have to give Kevin McCarthy credit for uniting it enough to get something passed that forced Grandpa Badfinger out of his rocking chair to the negotiating table. But McCarthy is definitely going to have to rely on Democrat votes to pass the final deal because some of the GOP caucus is too angry about the steaming pile of Kinzinger that is this deal. Again, I don't know what it is specifically, but it is certain to suck because we do not have the power to wring a good deal out of the swamp. That's how power works. If you have it, you take what you want. If you don't, you take what you can get. 

We have a little power today, but we should have a lot more, and there is no one to blame but ourselves. The GOP, thanks to us voters choosing a bunch of bad primary candidates, a broken party organization, infighting with in-power leaders, and Trump, barely tied (and therefore lost) an unlosable election. Remember when we were talking about having 56 GOP senators? Me too. Good times. 

Then we blew it, and sub-par budget deals are a consequence of that blowing. When you have one house of two, and the presidency is occupied by a senile proto-communist, you don't get to dictate the terms. You get to, maybe, squeeze out a little at the margins. 

But we're going to fix the party in time for next year, right? We learned our lesson after doing push-ups on the hot stove, right? No more losing in 2024, right?

Well, it looks like we, as a party, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. We, the primary voters, chose a bunch of loser candidates in 2022. Not good ones who lost, like Adam Laxalt – that happens. I mean bad ones who normal voters hate even if we love them. You know who they are. The only people who don't know are the failed candidates themselves. In PA, at least Doug Mastriano (a fellow Gulf War vet, who I like) saw that his brand of conservatism is not selling right now and properly declined a Senate run. He's got to be disappointed, but he had the character to make the kind of self-sacrifice we should expect of a candidate, and he should be praised for putting his ambition second to the need to win that seat. But will others show this kind of character? 

Well, luckily, we fixed all those organizational issues that hamstrung us in 2020 and 2022, right? No. With Trump's backing, the GOP rehired the same woman who blew a bunch of elections in a row. If Ronna McDaniel has reformed the Republican Party to be ready for the legal and logistical challenges of 2024, I haven't heard about it. Have you?

Other leaders share the blame. For example, Mitch McConnell played games and helped us lose in 2022. He was passive-aggressive in the debt talks, throwing it all onto Kevin McCarthy. The Murder Turtle has made himself something we never thought he would be – irrelevant. 

And finally, there's Trump. He endorsed a bunch of losers in key 2022 races. They lost. Most were his pals or celebrities, chosen on a whim instead of through ruthless calculation. Do you see him learning his lesson? And his own run has a firm 47% ceiling. He is less likely to win a general than any Republican not named Asa. Yet, there he goes again. Like it or not – and I do not – Trump will be a drag on the down-ballot races and unlikely to win, and there's a substantial chance we primary voters will nominate him anyway. We'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

If you don't do what you need to do to win power, you don't win power. We did not do it in 2022, and that's why we got what is probably a bad deal. We simply do not have the power to get a good one, and it's unclear we are serious about getting the power we need to get a good one. I like a lot of the people who lost. A lot. I like Trump, but it's not about liking. It's about winning because if you win, you get good deals. And if you lose, you get this dog's breakfast.

Follow Kurt on Twitter @KurtSchlichter. Get Inferno, the seventh book in the Kelly Turnbull People's Republic series of conservative action novels set in America after a notional national divorce, as well as his non-fiction book, We'll Be Back: The Fall and Rise of America.

My super-secret email address is


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