The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Dreams of a Government Shutdown?

Posted on | February 19, 2011 | 5 Comments

Republicans in the House have been pulling long hours to enact a continuing resolution that would extend funding for the rest of the fiscal year. And if they fail to get it passed before the current continuing resolution runs out, they plan to pass a stopgap short-term measure to prevent a government shutdown. Meanwhile, it appears, Democrats hope Boehner fails:

A high-ranking aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told chiefs of staff of Democratic lawmakers that a government shutdown is more likely than not, according to attendees.
Speaking at a regular meeting of the top aides to House Democrats, Pelosi’s floor director, Jerry Hartz, offered, unprompted, his assessment that the odds favor inaction before the government runs out of money, sources said.

This is almost certainly wishful thinking on Hartz’s part. Even the most ideologically rigid of Tea Party freshmen know the history of how Clinton (with the assistance of the media) demonized Gingrich’s Republicans over the 1995-96 shutdown, and are eager to avoid a repeat.

Furthermore, given their campaign mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” the GOP freshmen want to be seen as working pragmatically on fixing the economy. It’s possible that the Democratic majority in the Senate could, by obstinate resistance, create a “no deal” standoff with House Republicans — but that wouldn’t cause a shutdown, just a resort to more short-term continuing resolutions while the impasse was negotiated.

And, at some point, President Obama might have the chance to cause trouble by wielding the veto. But again, that just takes us back to short-term continuing resolutions, and leaves Obama exposed to the accusation that he’s refusing to cut spending.

Some conservatives will be disgruntled by Boehner’s desire to avoid a dramatic showdown with Obama. For example, Ace of Spades was enraged by yesterday’s vote against an extra $22 billion in cuts, and Dave in Texas rages again today. But the GOP House leadership has to be thinking three moves ahead in this chess game, and a “reasonable compromise” now — however much it enrages conservatives — will put Boehner in a stronger position when he’s negotiating with the Senate and the President.

To my enraged and disgruntled friends: Chill.

Once they’ve got the continuing resolution in place for the rest of the fiscal year, House Republicans will immediately begin the budgeting process for the next fiscal year, and that’s when the real fun starts rolling. All you’ve got to do is wait a few weeks, OK?

At any rate, Pelosi’s fantasies of a government shutdown — giving her a chance to claim that House Republicans are a bunch of wild-eyed fanatical extremists — are almost certain to remain a fantasy.


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