Is Another Shutdown Brewing?

Josh Marshall doesn’t rule it out:

After their big election win two weeks ago, GOP leaders in Washington pressed one key point again and again: No shutdowns. Certainly no impeachment. And more generally an end to the government by showdown and crisis which has been their order of the day since coming to power in early 2011. And yet here we are, not two weeks into the new era of unified GOP control on Capitol Hill (albeit in the majority-elect phase) and we’re already down to our first shutdown showdown. Indeed, shutdown is emerging as the ‘mainstream’ response to the President’s impending immigration executive order, with impeachment the preferred response of your moreforward-leaning GOP electeds and Fox News whips.

The upshot is clear and shouldn’t surprise us: government by crisis is built into the DNA of the current GOP. And leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, despite their efforts since just after the 2010 election, are largely powerless to control or discipline it.

Politico reports on Republican leaders’ attempts to avoid a shutdown:

The least desirable option, according to several Republicans directly involved in planning, is a series of short-term spending bills. McConnell and Boehner desperately want to avoid a rolling set of spending fights early in the year, which would undermine their campaign promises to return Congress to regular order. An endless stream of stopgap spending bills would throw Washington back into the crisis-like atmosphere that has defined the post-2010 divided government. The dynamic amounts to the first true post-election test for Republican leaders: They want to push back aggressively on the administration without going too far.

Matthew Boyle hears “a consensus emerging among Republicans on Capitol Hill: There will be no funding for Obama’s planned executive amnesty.” But he doubts this will result in a shutdown:

First off, unlike Obamacare, executive amnesty is not the law. It’s a lot easier to make a case to block funding to use Congress’ power of the purse to stop an executive amnesty, and Lee said he expects many of the Democrats who have publicly opposed Obama’s planned executive amnesty will join in the effort to stop him.

Secondly, unlike Obamacare, amnesty is not implemented yet—and an effort to block funding would prevent the expenditure of taxpayer dollars being used to carry out a future action; in this case, the printing of executive amnesty documents like work permits, ID cards, and Social Security numbers for illegal aliens.

Thirdly and most importantly, with full control of both chambers of Congress, the GOP can push through appropriations bills or a partial Continuing Resolution that funds everything except for the Department of Homeland Security—separating that out for another fight.

Sargent weighs in:

Republicans will work hard to create a narrative in which their own drastic measures were only necessary in response to Obama’s extreme lawlessness.

So let’s recall a bit of context here: Republicans had previously been planning to possibly use government funding fights — which carry with them the implicit threat of a government shutdown — to reverse Obama’s already achieved policy gains. We know this because Mitch McConnell himself usefully confirmed it on the record in August. He said the new GOP Senate majority would attach riders to spending bills, designed to get Obama to agree to roll back his policies on the environment, health care, and elsewhere, or risk a government shutdown. McConnell made the same pledge in a private Koch confab with wealthy donors.

McConnell may or may not go through with that tactic; it may well have been just bluster for the base. He appears to want to move away from it now. But it’s looking increasingly like GOP leaders may have no choice.

Lastly, should the government shut down, Chait expects it to backfire on the GOP:

Republican leaders had hoped to pass a year-long bill to keep the government open. Ultraconservative dissidents have instead proposed a short-term bill, which would allow Republicans to come back and attach conditions (weakening Obama’s authority to regulate the environment and revamp immigration enforcement) to any bill to keep the government open. A bill that prevents a shutdown for a year, argues a National Review editorial, “would surrender all leverage Republicans have with government funding.”

That a shutdown gives Republicans any actual leverage, as opposed to imagined leverage, is another right-wing fantasy. It is now fairly well-established that the sole impact of a government shutdown is to make the public hate the party that controls Congress. The gun the conservatives are holding is pointed at their own head.