Late Friday Night, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH 8), Senate Democrats, and President Barack Obama came to a deal to continue funding the government and avoided a government shutdown. The deal would cut $38 billion in spending for 2011 and keep the government funded... until the next time there is the threat of a government shutdown.
Each side was in agreement about the deal…. Except for some small issues…
Now, I will discuss this more in detail but this posting is more about the politics of the shutdown.
It looks like both sides won this battle, but upon further inspection Speaker Boehner has been weakened within his own membership in the House.
The Speaker of the House does not want a government shutdown. He remembers what the impact had on his party when there was a shutdown in late 1995.
Congressional Republicans were assigned the blame for the shutdown back then, and it was one of the factors that cost Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas the White House that year.
A government shutdown in 1995 was not as dire then because the United States was economically sound and we were in relative era of peace. Today, the economy is in a weak recovery mode and we have troops deployed in
three two wars and a coalition in Libya.
If the government were to shutdown, 37% of Americans in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll would blame Congressional Republicans for causing the shutdown.
Even though publicly House Republican leadership is saying they don’t want a government shutdown, they why are they saying this….?
It is obvious that Speaker Boehner has lost control of the messaging. Instead of telling his party that we are united and we don’t want a shutdown, the party in the House is splintered between those in the leadership roles and the Tea Party. Speaker Boehner knows that a shutdown would be counter-productive because, again, he was in the House when the last time there was government shutdown. The Tea Party wants a shutdown because it is to prove a point.
And that point is….?
We caused the shutdown of the big bad federal government. Ha ha ha ha ha ha….
Right…. Until social security checks aren’t coming in, or tax returns are not being processed (April 15 is getting close), or the military is not receiving their pay, or 800,000 federal employees are let go on furlough, or National Parks are closed…
Those are things people like: receiving money, working for money, or visiting a National Park.
So shutting down the federal government would be awesome and save all this money…?
During the last shutdown of the federal government from December 1995-January 1996, the cost to the American taxpayer was $1.5 billion.
The Party of Fiscal Responsibility… I think not.
To conclude, let’s go back to the political argument. Senate Democrats and the White House held the line. That means something because when Democrats stand up, people take notice. Even though there will be a cut of $38 billion, it keeps the government operating and does not defund programs such as Planned Parenthood, the EPA, and Health Care Reform Act of 2010 which their base supports and over time people eventually support.
On the other side, it appears that Boehner caved in and there is buzzing within the Tea Party that he could face a challenge to his speakership if this happens again. Instead of claiming victory for getting some cuts, the Republicans and their base are furious that they didn’t get the $100 billion in cuts they were promised when their party gained control of the House during the mid-term election. Instead of accepting this compromise and building on it, they are in an all or nothing mode. That is not the path to effective governance especially in this period of divided government.
For now, this compromise works because it keeps the government working during an unstable economic period. I would expect the next time that the House Republicans would ask for more cuts, the White House and Senate Democrats tells them no more. Even though it would be risky, a government shutdown would happen.
The Tea Party will rejoice when that happens.
Be careful for what you wish for….