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Washington Notebook: Too Close for Comfort

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Last night both the Democratic and Republican Leaders of the Senate and the President all came out to publicly announce that they had the framework for a deal to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit thereby warding off a global financial catastrophe.

This framework provides for some cuts in spending now and pushes the toughest choices to a Joint Commission of Congress.

It also increases the debt ceiling enough to ensure that the next fight will be after the 2012 Election.

Surprise! Surprise! These announcements were made just minutes before the Asian Markets opened.

These announcements were clearly designed to calm the markets and buy a little more time to finalise and actually pass this long over-due piece of legislation.

What comes next will be a true test of bi-partisan arm twisting to ensure enough votes in both Houses of Congress to get it done!

It will also be a true test of Speaker John Boehner's power over his House Republicans especially the Tea Party Members.

Boehner may need the help of Democrats and in particular former Speaker Nancy Pelosi to get the votes he needs. It remains to be seen whether her help will be forthcoming.

None of this would have happened if a minority of legislators, the new Tea Party Members of the House Representatives, did not marry the vote to increase the debt ceiling to reducing the deficit.

By joining these issues together the Tea Party Members turned what was normally a routine vote into a political opportunity and a crisis just to advance their own conservative ideology.

The Tea Party Republicans are freshman legislators but they clearly deserve an A+ in learning how to manipulate the system and turn "compromise" into a dirty word.

The Tea Party has won the debate and now it is up Boehner to sell this deal to them, convincing them that they have gone just far enough.

Right now the Republicans think they have the edge. They are fighting for what they believe are winning principles which will move them toward victory in 2012.

The problem for both parties is that the Joint Commission must go through this process again to find more cuts. The Joint Commission must reach a deal by November on the any further cuts.

If they don't the Sword of Damocles which is hanging over both their heads will fall - making deep across the board cuts in the programs that are the Holy Grails of their respective parties - Military cuts for Republicans and Medicare and Social Security cuts for the Democrats.

If they fail to work out a deal and these automatic cuts take place both parties will have a lot of angry constituents to answer to just before the next election.

The Democrats have given up the most ground. They have lost their ability to argue for any stimulus package to improve the economy or for any tax increases on the wealthy to avoid cuts in their precious entitlement programs.

Now the Democrats are hanging on for dear life since they must save their legacy programs like Medicare and Social Security handed down from FDR and LBJ.

The only point the Democrats and the President seem to have won was the timing of the next fight over the debt ceiling - which was postponed till after the next election.

To prevent a default at the eleventh hour Obama may have relinquished the last arrow in his political quiver by agreeing to deep cuts in government spending which some economists believe might jeopardise this fragile recovery.

The reason this process was so painfully slow is that virtually every aspect of this deal was politically super-charged.

Both Republicans and Democrats carefully staked out their positions and arguments to play to their voters in the 2012 election.

It is too soon to know just what the outcome of this piece of legislation will be.

The devil is in the details and those details aren't even written yet.

President Obama's re-election chances may hinge on how this deal is perceived by his base - who are not lining up on the side lines to cheer him on at this very moment.

Also see my Washington Notebook blog on Sky News