May
06
2015

Shutdown to be revisited in fall of 2015?

Let’s just stamp on this nonsense on stilts right now, because it is nonsense on stilts:

A shutdown fight would be risky for both sides, but would be particularly perilous for Republicans as they seek to retain control of Congress and win back the White House. The last shutdown fight sent the GOP’s poll numbers to historic lows, though the party’s brand recovered ahead of a historic midterm elections triumph.

Here’s why it’s nonsense on stilts:

  1. The shutdown fight in 2013 took place because the Republican-run House and the Democratic-run Senate could not agree on a budget, spending priorities, you name it. A government shutdown in 2015 would be because the President vetoed duly-passed appropriations bills.  Which is totally his privilege – but Barack Obama would then also be responsible, in a way that he’s never had to be before.
  2. Building on that… it is very possible that Barack Obama does not understand just how much he’s been able to lean for support on a complaisant, Democratic-controlled Congress. Or that ‘I’m shutting down the government because I want Republicans to spend more’ will not have the same resonance with the American people as ‘the Republicans are shutting down the government because they can’t make a deal with the Senate.’
  3. Lastly… I will concede that the timing of the 2013 shutdown was awful for Ken Cuccinelli.  Truly, truly awful.  Otherwise… oh, yes, God forbid that we should have another fight where the GOP fights out a government shutdown for about two, three weeks longer than most political observers (including myself) thought they would.  How could we ever recover from that? Why, if we had only not had that 2013 shutdown then in 2014 we might have won eighteen seats in the Senate, twenty-six seats in the House, and four net governorships! Somehow!

Bottom line is this: for the first time since 2009 we have the classic divided government that everybody says that the American people hate… and that the American people keep voting into existence anyway. Under normal circumstances we’d have an executive branch that understood that the tactics that work under a super-majority in Congress – or even a divided Congress – will not work when the opposition party can send bills to his desk. There’s a reason why the Democrats never passed a budget when they could possibly help it, after all.

But these aren’t normal circumstances. President Barack Obama probably either thinks that he can veto a budget and not have it slop over onto his party and the next candidate, or he thinks that he doesn’t have to care.  Probably the latter – and while I agree that the Republican Congressional caucuses can drive a thoughtful man mad sometimes, in this particular case the fight will be under conditions that my often-exasperating party is most comfortable with. We can do a Return To Normalcy campaign in our sleep – and, frankly? We’ll need the practice for 2016 anyway.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

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