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What a difference a tough negotiating stance can make. Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a clean debt ceiling bill. Republican leadership backed the bill but had to rely on Democratic votes to push it through. The vote was 221-201 to lift the debt ceiling until March 2015.

Only 28 Republicans voted for the bill. The Hastert Rule again violated, it seems Speaker Boehner is willing to irritate the Tea Party more and more. Will the trend continue or is Speaker Boehner simply choosing his battles with more care?

It’s a reversal for Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio), who, in 2011, said that when Congress raises the debt limit, it should also enact budget cuts of equal or greater magnitude. It’s also a clear sign of the House Republican Conference’s inability to move beyond fiscal fights and lays in plain view the leadership’s inability – or unwillingness – to corral votes for their priorities.

There’s no two ways about it, Speaker Boehner conceded because President Obama and the Democrats held the line. Apparently, to paraphrase the president, negotiating with “hostage takers” is the wrong move. And, subsequently, saying you won’t play their game can yield some positive results. Better to learn that in 2014 than never?

But are the Republicans really sidelining the Tea Party?

The lesson of the shutdown for both moderates and mainstream conservatives in the House (and something they should have realized before the shutdown) was that many of them eventually were going to have to split from the radicals because, at the end of the day, something would have to pass, and they (along with Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama) would have to go along with it.

So then it really  is – what a difference a PR disaster makes? There’s an argument that the shutdown was the zenith of the Tea Party’s power in Washington, that they were able to achieve their ultimate cosmic goal of stopping the government from working only to learn that the vast majority of people – not just the establishment – hate that idea.

Then again maybe the debt ceiling cave is part of a give and take process where Speaker Boehner overrules the Tea Party on the debt limit then folds to them on immigration reform. It is the midterms after all and after that the Tea Party stays just as relevant to the GOP establishment as the 2016 presidential primaries kick off.

Photo by HKDP under Creative Commons license.