Government Shutdown? Not This Time

Despite the posturing and recycled threats, Republicans are not motivated to hold the government hostage just yet.

The Capitol is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
National Journal
Ben Terris
Sept. 15, 2013, 4 a.m.

The drum­beat has already star­ted.

“GOP split over health care law boosts threat of a gov­ern­ment shut­down,” says the Los Angeles Times.

“A Gov­ern­ment Shut­down Just Got More Likely,” Busi­nes­s­Week said on Sept. 11.

“No Clear Path in Con­gress Avoid­ing a Shut­down,” NBC said on their web­site the next day.

It makes for an ex­cit­ing story — al­beit one that we’ve heard many times re­cently — but the gen­er­al con­sensus, both from out­side ex­perts and Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers, is that it’s just not go­ing to hap­pen. Yet.

“I’m very con­fid­ent in my be­lief that a shut­down will not hap­pen,” said a Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship aide. “I’m not go­ing to rule out the chance that it ever does. But the lead­er­ship team and over­whelm­ing num­ber of our mem­bers do not want to shut down the gov­ern­ment.”

Polit­ic­ally, Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers know it’s in their best in­terest not to have the gov­ern­ment shut down. A new poll from CNN found that the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try would blame them, not Demo­crats, if such a thing were to hap­pen. That is cer­tainly part of the pitch from top Re­pub­lic­ans to their mem­bers. They also want their col­leagues to think of passing a budget bill — one that keeps se­quester-levels of spend­ing in­tact — as a vic­tory in and of it­self. 

And as for fight­ing for such trophies as delay­ing or de­fund­ing Obama­care, Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship aides say that all they really need is just a bit more time to con­vince the hol­d­outs that there’s a bet­ter mo­ment to have that fight.

“If you’re look­ing to par­tially de­fund or delay the health care law, or in­di­vidu­al man­date, or try and force spend­ing cuts, it seems like, giv­en the tim­ing and lay of the land right now, the bet­ter place is on the debt lim­it,” said an­oth­er top Re­pub­lic­an staffer.

Why? Partly be­cause it gives GOP law­makers time to rally around a plan. It also has to do with mes­saging. Many sopho­more and fresh­man Re­pub­lic­ans got them­selves elec­ted by cas­tig­at­ing the coun­try’s bor­row­ing habits. For them, it’s bet­ter to fight about that than to look like a group of people who can’t even keep the gov­ern­ment’s doors open.

That doesn’t mean it’s go­ing to be easy, though. It hasn’t been so far.

After re­turn­ing from a month­long va­ca­tion, law­makers de­bated noth­ing but a pos­sible mil­it­ary strike against Syr­ia, leav­ing very little room for dis­cus­sions about fund­ing the gov­ern­ment. By the time House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor came up with a plan for such a fund­ing bill, he and the lead­er­ship team couldn’t garner enough sup­port from Re­pub­lic­ans to even bring it up for a vote. The prob­lem was, con­ser­vat­ives didn’t feel Can­tor’s bill made a real enough ef­fort to de­fund Obama­care. While the vast ma­jor­ity of Can­tor’s col­leagues sup­por­ted his plan, it would only take a small frac­tion of op­pos­i­tion to de­rail it.

The vote was put on hold, but House Speak­er John Boehner hin­ted at a press con­fer­ence that the plan is still to try and sell Can­tor’s pro­pos­al — or something like it — to his mem­bers. When a re­port­er im­plied that such a course of ac­tion had been re­jec­ted, the speak­er winked and said: “Not quite yet.”

It’s go­ing to be tough to get Can­tor’s plan ap­proved by 218 Re­pub­lic­ans. Rep. Tom Graves of Geor­gia has come out with a bill — co­signed by about 50 mem­bers and count­ing — that would fund the gov­ern­ment for a year while strip­ping away fund­ing for Obama­care un­til 2015.

“Our con­fer­ence is uni­fy­ing on this in ways I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said about his bill, which would surely be dead-on-ar­rival in the Sen­ate. “We have found the sweet spot that keeps the gov­ern­ment open and keeps away the harm­ful ef­fects of Obama­care.”

But even as Graves whips up sup­port for his own bill, some top con­ser­vat­ives ad­mit there may be oth­er ways to go about achiev­ing their goals.

“There are a lot of tools in our tool chest, wheth­er it’s the CR or the debt ceil­ing,” said Rep. Steve Scal­ise, R-La., whose job as the chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee makes him an in­flu­en­tial fig­ure among the House’s most con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers. “There’s no one way to get this done.  We are not mar­ried to one plan.”

With neither Demo­crats or Re­pub­lic­ans hav­ing had much time to pre­pare for battle, with the debt ceil­ing just around the corner, and with an­oth­er pos­sible gov­ern­ment fund­ing fight kicked to Decem­ber, the best time for a knock­down brawl over spend­ing and health­care may be a little bit later.

“We are much more con­cerned about a shut­down later in the year,” said Sean West, the dir­ect­or of U.S. polit­ic­al risk at the Euras­ia Group, a con­sultancy that spe­cial­izes in fore­cast­ing polit­ic­al de­vel­op­ments. “Neither side is well po­si­tioned to weath­er the fall out of a shut­down at this stage.”

If this Septem­ber story line all seems too pre­dict­able, just stay tuned. Even if con­ser­vat­ives agree to fund the gov­ern­ment for a couple of months, it could set up a very cli­mactic Decem­ber.

“If you think con­ser­vat­ives are mad now, just wait un­til there’s a second CR,” West said. “They will have been steam­rolled by the first one, and prob­ably mad by how the debt ceil­ing went. That’s why the risk is high­er then.”

What We're Following See More »
HE ‘WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT’
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

FIRST CHANGE IN FOUR DECADES
Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

Source:
LEVERAGE
Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
14 hours ago
THE LATEST

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Source:
LOST BY HALF A PERCENTAGE POINT
Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.

Source:
TIES TO CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE
McAuliffe Under Investigation for Fundraising
19 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) “is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and … the Justice Department” for potentially improper contributions to his 2013 campaign, including while he was a Clinton Global Initiative board member. ... Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from” former Chinese legislator Wang Wenliang. “U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to … elections. … But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status.”

Source:
×