Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 19, 2010

THE LIKELIHOOD OF A SHUTDOWN.... Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on Fox News this morning, and was asked, "What about this idea of shutting down the government? ... Have you heard any candidates out there saying that that's what they want to do? That that's what they're going to do once they get to Washington?"

Steele replied, "I have not heard any candidates say that."

Maybe he's not listening, because all kinds of Republican candidates have been saying exactly that. Some have been demanding a shutdown, and when CNN pressed House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the issue of a shutdown, he refused to answer either way.

The question to me isn't whether House Republicans would push the government towards a shutdown; the question to me is which issue they'll use to make it happen.

The most common assumption is that the GOP will pick a fight over health care, vowing to shut down the government unless Democrats agree to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Just last month, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) even demanded this his party's leadership sign a "blood oath" that they will gut America's health care system, even if the effort leads to a government shutdown.

But it could happen even sooner, on an issue that has nothing to do with health care.

The campaign rhetoric of tea-party-inspired Republicans is on a collision course with the federal debt limit, which could make the threat of a government shutdown an early order of business in a new Republican majority.

Republican candidates across the country are attacking Democrats for growth in government spending -- specifically, their votes earlier this year to raise the debt limit to $14.3 trillion.

But with the deficit running over $100 billion a month and the national debt already above $13.6 trillion, Treasury Department officials predicted earlier this month that they would need Congress to raise the debt limit again in the first or second quarter of 2011. A failure to raise the debt limit could result in a government shutdown, because the government could not borrow more money to operate.

It's worth emphasizing that the National Republican Congressional Committee is running several attack ads on debt-limit votes, and several House GOP candidates have already vowed to reject any additional increases. Republican lawmakers, if they're in the majority, may very well see this as an opportunity to exploit.

Of course, these are the same Republican lawmakers who insist on adding trillions of dollars to the debt in the form of tax cuts for millionaires, so their consistency on fiscal responsibility leaves much to be desired.

Regardless, if there's a GOP majority in at least one chamber, as appears likely, it wouldn't be too surprising if Republicans shut down the government fairly early on next year.

Steve Benen 1:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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When the GOP had a majority and a Republican president, they voted at least six times to raise the debt limit. I guess most of them are like Mark Kirk of Illinois, who is a recent convert to deficit hawkishness.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 19, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

But the gov't shutdown redux is a Dem's wet dream, no? A prime opportunity to put on display the Repub's and their co-opted minions' actual agenda without them being able to hide behind corporate media outlets, secret campaign funding, and dog whistle obfuscation of policies? Except for the part where Dem's screw it up, of course.

Posted by: jsacto on October 19, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

I guess it's considered too difficult for voters to understand that the deficit has risen because tax receipts have plummeted due to Bush's massive recession, and not because growth in government spending has been anything more than typical (it hasn't.) Be nice if we had a political environment where facts actually mattered.

Posted by: Redshift on October 19, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Failure to raise the debt limit will result in an immediate default on its bonds and securities by the U.S. This in turn won't just shut down the government, it'll shut down the economy. Major bank failures would be the least of it.
Somehow, I think the big money boys will explain this to the new Congress -- forcefully. A little 2000 point drop in the Dow the day before the vote ought to make the point.

Posted by: JMG on October 19, 2010 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

If the debt ceiling isn't raised then what the heck are the Republicans going to cut to make the deficit?

Posted by: Maritza on October 19, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

The inside-the-beltway "wisdom" seems to be that Republicans won't force a shutdown because it backfired on them so badly in 1995. But back then there were still honest journalists in the corporate-controlled media who didn't act like stenographers for whatever nonsensical talking point the Republicans were pushing that day. A government shutdown in 2011 will be portrayed as Obama's fault, no matter what the actual facts are.

And I would love to see Obama call the born-again deficit hawk's bluff, and say, "All right, we all need to work together to reduce the deficit. So I want every senator to identify $5 billion from their own state to be cut. That will reduce the deficit by half a trillion dollars.".

With luck, a few Republicans would back peddle so fast they' kill themselves.

But of course, challenging the Republicans like that would take courage and conviction. So . . . .

Posted by: SteveT on October 19, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

And I would love to see Obama call the born-again deficit hawk's bluff...... I want every senator to identify $5 billion from their own state to be cut. That will reduce the deficit by half a trillion dollars.". -SteveT

I was thinking along the lines of having the new house majority be responsible for writing a balanced federal budget that would be ecceptable to them, but SteveT's idea is waayyyy better.

Posted by: BluePotSmokesBetter on October 19, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Let's assume that a few of the senate nutjobs get elected. All of this back to 1995 stuff might be wishful thinking. What are the mechanics of a vote to raise the debt ceiling? Does it originate in the house? Plus the senate? Let's assume that several nutters get elected. So they now face a critical vote: be percieved as standing up for their principles with the Birchers and Haters and Teaparty types, or do the logical thing and vote to raise - but imagine the hell that newly elected senator nutjob wil face from their base.

Would such a vote need 60? 50? What about holding up the vote by objecting to the unanimous consent rule of the senate? Could one senator hold up the vote?

I was just in teaparty land, and I am sure most of the folks getting veteran benefits and medicare and social security have no f***ing clue as to the link between "shutdown" and - lack of payments to them. So more than a 2000 pt drop in the stocks AND who knows what in the bond markets, those folks would be pissed.

Posted by: bigutah on October 19, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

I think a Gov shutdown next year appears unavoidable at this stage. The tea partiers will try hard to blame Obama.......I just wonder if the dem's will cow tow to all the hysterics......they usually do.

Posted by: latimlf on October 19, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Failure to raise the debt limit will result in an immediate default on its bonds and securities by the U.S. This in turn won't just shut down the government, it'll shut down the economy. Major bank failures would be the least of it.
Somehow, I think the big money boys will explain this to the new Congress -- forcefully. A little 2000 point drop in the Dow the day before the vote ought to make the point.

This more than a govt. shutdown scares me the most. I try to tell myself that Republicans couldn't be venal or stupid enough to purposely destroy the US economy to gain political advantage, but given the behavior of the Republican party the last few years I have trouble believing it.

Posted by: Nied on October 19, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.

I'm tipping Lucifer from Paradise Lost to replace Michael Steele.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on October 19, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think people who are counting on Wall Street to control the Tea Partiers are whistling past the graveyard. They are True Believers armed with the sword of their dogma and armored by their own invincible ignorance. If the teabaggers torch the world's economy by defaulting on the debt--and look for the MSM Overton Window to move into this territory in the very near future because it is just too much sweet, delicious, ratings-enhancing crisis bait for them to resist--they'll just blame it on Obama and move on to engineering the next catastrophe.

Posted by: Another Steve on October 19, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

it's the insurance companies that control the republican party.why hasn't anyone asked them about their loyalty to them?

Posted by: unhappyrealist on November 6, 2010 at 7:35 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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