WASHINGTON DC, OCTOBER 2017 -- President Christie just signed a bill banning assault weapons across the US, resolving the month-long standoff during which the Democrat-controlled Senate refused to raise the debt ceiling.
Christie's eleventh-hour decision comes after weeks of insisting that he would not negotiate with Democrats while they were holding the debt ceiling hostage.
The president is relatively powerless in the face of threats from Congress to not raise the debt ceiling. That's been the case since President Obama diminished the power of the presidency in 2013 when he capitulated to GOP demands to delay Obamacare, rather than bring on a recession by defaulting on US debt. Fresh from that triumph, in 2014 House Republicans won cuts to social security and an agreement to build the Keystone Pipeline.
After Christie won the presidency in 2016, Democrats in the Senate realized the could do they same, and use the debt ceiling as a hostage to gain policy concessions from the president.
Senate Dems told Christie last month they wouldn't raise the debt ceiling unless he made a major concession from a list that included the assault weapons ban, sweeping environmental regulations, and strengthened union rights. Christie isn't much of a guns rights supporter but he is a friend to big business, hence his decision to concede the Democrats' demand for a new firearms law.
Next year, Senate Democrats say they plan to demand an increase in the federal minimum wage and funding for Obamacare subsidies in return for raising the debt ceiling.
The Democrat insurgency has been spearheaded by firebrand freshman Senator Alan Grayson (D-FL), who played a role similar to that of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2013 standoff with Obama.
Christie's earlier attempt at negotiating caused a media frenzy after he kept Congress members shut in a room for 48 hours without food or sleep. "We're not leaving this room until we fix this problem. Because I'm the boss, I'm in charge," Christie said.
However Christie proved not to be quite as in charge as he thought, when all the Democrats stood firm and refused to pass the "clean" debt ceiling hike. Sen. Harry Reid lamented that the health of older senators might be permanently compromised by the double all-nighter. But Sen. Ted Cruz was ebullient after the two-day marathon, telling the press "I feel great."
The blame for Christie's powerlessness can be laid squarely at Obama's door. He allowed Republicans to attach Obamacare riders to the debt ceiling in 2013, teaching the minority party that if they hold one house of Congress, they can demand whatever ransom they want - and get it.
And that's how America's president became a powerless cipher.