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Believe It Or Not, There's Serious Talk About A Government Shutdown In 2011

12 Sep 2010
Posted by Stan Collender

Even though the common wisdom is that the two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 were unmitigated political disasters for congressional Republicans, there is serious increasing talk about it being a prime strategy next year if the GOP is in the majority in the House and Senate.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was one of the architects of the failed shut-the-government strategy back in the 1990s, raised the idea back in April in connection with health care.  Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), a vice chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, spoke about it publicly last week.

I'll have much more to say about this on Tuesday when my Roll Call column is published. For now, just a few vignettes from the last time the GOP thought that closing the government was a good way to win the hearts and minds of voters and force the president to do its bidding.
  • Shutdowns actually cost the government more money ($800 million last time according to Time) than it would otherwise spend and, therefore, increase the deficit compared to what it otherwise would be. Departments and agencies have to begin to implement shutdown plans within a few days of the possibility that their appropriations might expire. At a minimum, this involves additional communications security, building maintenance needs.
  • The last shutdowns taught us the definition of “essential services” because of a ruling by the attorney general that, even if no appropriation had been enacted, the government may continue to do whatever this might be. But there’s no agreed-upon list of what is “essential” and last time the definition seemed to change as the shutdowns continued.
  • Contractors are often the biggest opponents of shutdowns and the ones that push the hardest for them to end because there’s no one at the agencies and departments to review and approve invoices, issue checks, and sign contracts. Businesses in and around federal facilities start losing money almost immediately and also are big opponents.
  • One of the more amusing things about the previous shutdowns was that only “essential” personnel were supposed to report to work. Every assistant and deputy assistant secretary thought that applied to them. In reality, it mostly applied to building maintenance and security people.

Another govt shutdown would

Another govt shutdown would be political suicide by the GOP as long as Obama/Geithner follow Clinton/Rubin's actions when Newt tried it. It would be especially dumb if the Congressional GOP did it over repealing Healthcare reform.

I guess these nuts are just

I guess these nuts are just pandering to their fantasist base who think that "government doesn't do anything", and that their roads, police, fire department, air traffic control, schools, etc, just appear magically out of thin air.

Shutdowns don't cost more money

Liberals never seem to be able to comprehend even basic math. So what if the govt ended up paying $800 million in salaries to furloughed employees, it would have paid the same amount if they had been at work. There was no additional cost. And does anyone really believe that a few days off had any measurable impact on govt workers productivity? BTW, roads, police, fire departments, and schools are paid for by state and local govts and would not be part of any federal govt shutdown.

$800mil on top of daily running expenses

It would be $800mil on top of the daily running of govt. The folks that work in DC in govt jobs will be paid as if they are working, retroactively. So the time spent not working will not count against holiday pay, sick pay, etc. It will just go into their accounts after shutdown is over. So the time govt is shutdown and nothing is getting done we, the taxpayers, will be paying as if things are getting done, and then paying again for people to clear the backlog of jobs that were put on hold for the shutdown.

I don't think the voters are

I don't think the voters are looking for a government shutdown. They'll be voting for Republicans to create government gridlock to shut down the Obama administration until 2012.

Government shutdown is suicide for GOP

We had the first shutdown in state history in MN in 2005 under Tim Pawlenty. Gov. Pawlenty had to convene a special session (yes, it cost the taxpayers extra money) the summer of 2005.

Citizens were disgusted by the paralysis. It didn't help that Bachmann (then a state senator) held the legislature hostage with her ban of same sex marriage bill, when the real issue was the state budget crisis. Voters kicked her upstairs to Congress in 2006, many voting for her just to "get her out of Minnesota" (at the door they'd laugh and say, "how much damage can she do in Congress? I'm voting for her to get the crazy out of here.").

What happened to the state GOP in 2006 elections? Well, my district lost all three GOP representatives to the Democrats. It was the beginning of what rolled out in the 2008 (the "tsunami") change year.

Pawlenty is now trying to make a bid for 2012 presidential nomination. At this point he wouldn't even win his home state.

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