Looks like we’re headed for a government shutdown

At the end of last week, I read an article from The Hill with quotes from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claiming that there was “momentum” towards a budget deal. Well, that was then; this is now. And with the short-term Continuing Resolution running out - meaning a government shutdown is a very real possibility, Schumer is now leading the rhetorical charge against Republicans:

Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”

Of course, he isn’t offering anything in terms of an actual budget. In fact, his party opted not to pass a budget for the FY 2011 when they had control of Congress. So rather than own up to that Schumer claims that cutting less than 3% of spending is some how “extremist.” I guess we are to believe that a $1.7 trillion budget deficit this year, a $14 trillion national debt, $9.5 trillion in projected deficits over the next 10 years and up to $119 trillion in unfunded liabilties thanks to entitlements is somehow acceptable to Schumer and his Democratic colleagues.

Sadly, it does seem that rather than hammering out some sort of budget deal, which would fund the government for less than half of the current fiscal year, that Democrats are rooting for a shutdown. Many Democrats believe this will hurt Republicans and point to the 1995 government shutdown and subsequent losses at the polls in 1996.

As Stephen Slivinski noted while discussing his book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, during a forum at the Cato Institute (about 14:45 into the audio), the GOP didn’t lose seats because of the shutdown; as counterintuitive as that may sound:

Conventional wisdom is that Republicans have nothing to show for that but a political black eye. But in retrospect, a lot of observers aren’t so sure. Bob Walker, a former Congressman of Pennsylvania and one of Newt Gingrich’s closest allies, told reporter Major Garrett of Fox News, he said, “Did we lose an election as a result of this [meaning the government shutdown]? No. Is there anything that really bad that happened congressionally because of the fact that we shut the government down? No.”

After looking at the election results of the ‘96 congressional election, in that election the GOP lost about a net two seats in the House, Linda Killian, who is a reporter for National Public Radio, certainly no redoubt Republican apologist, concluded the election really can’t be seen as a repudiation of the ‘94 revolution. The dozen freshman or so who lost in their specifc races did so for the reason that most candidates lose, they really weren’t that good as candidates. In fact, if you look at the freshman that were the most hardcore on cutting spending, they actually increased their vote totals. That’s especially astonishing since, one, Clinton was actually able to gain traction politcally in those specific districts and labor unions actually spent about $35 million trying unseat many of the GOP reformers.

And so, in light of these seeminly impossible odds, the budget cutters were the ones that actually ended up prevailing in larger and larger portions in terms of vote share in the ‘96 election.

While a government shutdown due to an impass over the budget may not be desirable outcome, the GOP should take this head on and stick to the principles they constantly claim to uphold.

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