The key point appears to be that Obama has no plan to avoid having to cave when debt ceiling time comes around.
Ezra Klein says Senate Democrats are unhappy:
Why the White House thinks it’s winning the ‘fiscal cliff’: ”The direction they’re headed is just absolutely the wrong direction for our country,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, on the Senate floor today. A top Senate staffer… heard the McConnell-Biden deal was in the range of $660 billion. That’s “$940b below the President’s initial position, $340b below Boehner’s last offer, and $140b below the $800b the President told Boehner he gets for free,” he griped.
Nor is there much confidence that the White House will be willing and able to stick to a dollar-to-dollar match in the next round of negotiations. “Politics-wise, this was the moment of maximum leverage, not the debt ceiling talks. If you are trying to get $1.6t total, getting less than half now--when the most factors are on your side–seems to severely hurt your chances,” said the Senate staffer….
Assuming the details of this deal remains fairly similar to what I’ve outlined here, the question of whether the White House outfoxed the Republicans or capitulated too early won’t be answerable until we know the outlines of the next deal…. [I]f, as Republicans believe and some Democrats fear, the White House folds when confronted with the debt ceiling… this deal will be seen as the moment when the White House blinked and traded away the guaranteed revenue of the fiscal cliff for a lowball offer from the GOP…
And Ezra Klein says Republicans are happy:
Why Republicans think they’re winning the ‘fiscal cliff’: Consider the ongoing “fiscal cliff” negotiations from the Republican Party’s perspective…. First, there was the fiscal cliff…. But after the fiscal cliff comes the debt ceiling…. The question for Republicans has always been how to get to the debt ceiling while giving up the minimum in tax increases. Many of them figured that they’d at least have to give on the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000…. To the GOP’s delight… the White House offered to raise the threshold from $250,000 to $400,000….
The White House plans to insist that it won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling at all. Republicans I’ve spoken to laugh at this bluster. Obama is already negotiating over the debt ceiling, they point out….
All this raises the tantalizing prospect for Republicans that they could end these negotiations having given up less tax revenue than they ever thought possible--less tax revenue than Boehner offered Obama, even--but still getting their entitlement cuts. Oh, and because there was never a big deal, they won’t have to agree to much stimulus, either. All in all, a pretty big win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the White House’s baffling inability to stick to a negotiating position.