StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Can The GOP Really Wait Until Next Year To Shut Down The Government?

04 Nov 2010
Posted by Stan Collender

Those who think the Republicans in the House and Senate have several months to get organized are seriously misreading the political tea leaves. 

Even though the smaller Senate GOP minority and House Republican majority won't officially be in place until January, the leadership will be facing a very difficult decision over federal spending in less than a month when the the current continuing resolution -- which is funding all federal agencies and departments that operate with annual appropriations -- expires.

That's the first point at which the GOP will have to face up to one of its most prominent campaign pledges: To significantly cut federal spending.  The vote to extend the CR will be the first opportunity to face that challenge head on because it can be filibustered in the Senate.  The Republicans there -- (Actually, all you need is one: Can you say Jim DeMint?) are in a position to prevent the current CR from being extended if the new version doesn't reduce spending to the level they want.

It's certainly possible that the Senate GOP leadership will decide to punt in December.  They could say that they want to wait until their colleagues in the House are in the majority so that they can work together to cut spending, or some other similar spin-like message.  Instead of forcing the issue in December 2010, they would agree to extend the existing CR until early next year (or insist on some type of symbolic change) and then come back in January armed for budget bear.

But there are four reasons why waiting isn't the best strategy.

First, from a strictly technical budget (and likely least important) perspective, waiting until next January or February will make it much more difficult to come up with the actual budget cuts that will be needed to achieve the lower spending levels the GOP says it wants.  At that point there will only be eight or seven months left in fiscal 2011 and that will mean that the spending reductions will only be achievable by substantial reductions in personnel.  Even under the best of circumstances, it will take most agencies and departments a month or so to identify the employees who will be let go and to then implement the changes.  That means that the reductions will have to be much larger and the political difficulty in doing so much, much greater than will be the case if the process begins in December .

Second, the tea partiers insisted it would not be politics as usual in Washington if they were elected and this will be their first opportunity to show they meant it.  Even though the just-elected senators will not yet be in office, they will be able to put pressure on the leadership to meet their demands in December.  This especially will be the case because any member of the leadership (the chairman of the appropriations committee, for example) who tries to thwart the effort could be threatened with a challenge when the new Congress convenes in January if the threat comes down in December.

Third, shutting down the government in December might be the best way to seal the deal with the party base that was all but guaranteed this type of confrontation during the campaign and will still be walking around with its chest puffed out in December.  By contrast, not taking advantage of the opportunity might well begin to alienate some who would see it as a betrayal.

Finally, December might well be the best time to push a Democratic Party that is disillusioned and depressed from the election and a White House that is reeling from the election results.  It is not at all clear that congressional Democrats or the Obama administration will have a plan in place during the lame duck session to deal with the extreme political and communications challenge a shutdown will create.  By contrast, a threatened shutdown in February would definitely provide the time to come up with a plan to deal with it.

If you're thinking about

If you're thinking about this, I would hope some Democrats are thinking about it, too. Besides, the visuals of taking power during a government shutdown would be none too good. We're not business as usual, we're no business at all.

Don't Be So Sure!

This is a wonderfully rhetorical piece, Stan, and some elements are very plausible. Yet, I don't agree that a December shutdown might encounter little resistance from a disheartened Democratic Party. Why? I generally believe that Pete Rouse, who I knew in another life, has already thought through the scenarios associated with a shutdown. I cannot believe that a Capitol Hill veteran such a Pete would not already have been seasoned by the previous Gingrich-era shutdown. And, depending on how the shutdown is structured, the Repubs might appear to be Gingrich-like grinches during the holiday or Christmas season. Just imagine: photoshop Boehner and McConnell as the Grinch and you have a leg up in the PR war.

Remember the lyrics to the tune "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"? The first stanza is:

"You're a mean one, Mister Grinch
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mister Grinch,
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

Yep, cuddly as a cactus and charming as an eel: McConnell and Boehner both.


I have no inside baseball insight to offer, but things didn't go so well during the Gingrich era shut-down. Tho there must be some hoping to egg-on opponents across the isle with short memories! Will they take the bait, er, egg?

President Obama and the White House

One of the reasons Gingrich blew the shut down is that a skillful White House maneuvered him into the blame corner. The Obama White House has not yet figured out how to effectively play defense, parry the Republican offense and counterpunch. It took the Clinton White House months to understand the speed and volume of their counter-communications and how to plant their opponents' vulnerability in advance.

Stan is right: Republicans would be well served to launch the big one before the Democrats understand how to fight back.

Even as a Democrat, I like

Even as a Democrat, I like this scenario--if only because I love epic showdowns and the fact that the Democratic Party has become so listless that it can only be moved by the wild gyrations of the right. Still, I think Bruce has a good point above. Layoffs at the holidays won't be well received. All those Tea Partiers reveling and foaming at the mouth won't create an endearing image of the new regime. I think the base will spot them a few months. It's purely partisan. Just as the left became blase' about the Iraq/Afghan War once Obama was in charge of it, so too will the Tea Partiers become blase' about the budget once the GOP is in charge of it. They only got mad at W. because he damaged the GOP brand, not because of any specific policy action. If he'd have been popular, they'd have cheered TARP the way they did Medicaid expansion.

My Medicare will begin February, 2011 -- will the Tea Partiers &

Republican Party cover my health care costs beginning in February if their shutdown means I have no coverage? Me and millions of other recipients?

I'm a cancer patient and have ongoing treatments.... They really want to do something like this?

Uh, on second thought, being the "hurry up and die" party...they maybe do want this to happen. Times 1,000,000 or more. All of us "greedy geezers, " eh? Oh, Simpson would love this!

Er, what about those Tea Partiers holding signs that read "Keep your governmet hands off my Medicare?" Did they want "government hands" off their Social Security as well? Did they want the government to not send their checks?

Ought to be interesting. Maybe the TP and Republican Parties will have to cover rent and mortgage payments as well....


I expect that the Republican/TeaParty will continue its outlandish actions and play political games no matter how much damage it does to our country. Based upon its promises and guarantees that have resulted in the successes of this election, the Republican/TeaParty now has to do SOMETHING and I really don't see any real thought exhibited other than empty dramatic gestures. Shutting the Goverment down might give some people a warm and fuzzy feeling of power but it won't last long and the recriminations will be severe..... Should be interesting to watch. "You have to be careful about what you ask for..... You might get it......"

If the Republicans don't make

If the Republicans don't make the first move, they risk being put at significant tactical disadvantage. Also, the incumbent House leadership needs to get out ahead of the incoming crowd--bit like the French general trying to get to the head of the mob he was 'leading'. And as the Gingrich experience showed, managing an unruly and inexperienced House majority can be daunting.

On the other hand, right now I think the Dems should be inciting a 'bring it on, bring it on', coupled with an taunt/invitation to pick a real target (social security, defense or medicare)and not play games with small beer ideologically distasteful programs that are where the money isn't. But that would require them to engage in some hardball politics, which isn't exactly this Administration's forte. In mainstream media terms, the Obamacrats are like a bunch of tweedy theatre critics and refined foreign correspondents when what's needed is a gang of police beat reporters and gossip columnists.

But I don't have any inside baseball to offer, either.

What other option do they have?

They proved from 2000 to 2008 that they couldn't govern; their ideas led us to within 2 days of a meltdown of the financial sector, to U6 unemployment rate of near 20%, of a doubling (trebling if you factor in the long term cost of the Iraq War) of the national debt, and of course, two never ending wars.

Their best alternative is to punt. Go ahead and shut down the federal government. Drown it in a bathtub. Just remember to bring all our troops home before you shut off the lights.

This Proposal

This certainly is A Modest Proposal you are making... I hope?

It's one thing to want an agenda, but stopping large swaths of federal government function, with little to no time to plan for it, in the middle of a terrible economy (suddenly not paying or laying off millions of people is not good for the economy) is irresponsible. To do so for political gain is ghastly.

The conservatism I believe in favors careful, slow, data-tested, history-minded change, not this hostage-taking radicalism.

"The conservatism I believe

"The conservatism I believe in favors careful, slow, data-tested, history-minded change, not this hostage-taking radicalism."

That party is no more! It has ceased to be! It's expired and gone to meet its maker! It's a stiff! Bereft of life, It rests in peace! It's kicked the bucket, It's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!

Wishful thinking?

You bring this notion up so often you seem to be positively rooting for it. I understand why you would, but....

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said a Republican House won’t shut down the government even if Congress and President Barack Obama can’t agree on a budget. "I don’t think this country is desirous of seeing a government that is shut down," he told reporters on a conference call...

House Minority Leader John Boehner ... has also thrown cold water on the idea of freezing government operations...

I know you think Repubs are the stupid party (as opposed to all the brilliance the Dems displayed so recently in proclaiming their "permanent progressive majority") but dim as they may be, they do have a memory of how this worked out last time.

For the Dems to recover what they lost on Tuesday they are going to have to come up with a better strategy than hoping the Repubs commit suicide ... within a month! :-)

Please, please, let this be true

I really hope the TP/Republicans are listening to our man Stan. Very bad economic data will start coming out over the next few months and the shutdown can be blamed. (It might even be partially responsible!!.

look at nj and wi for a foretaste

killing off the tunnel, killing off the rail upgrade? stupid party lives.

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