The Shutdown Opportunity For Senate Democrats

Dave Johnson

Republicans are trying to use a government shutdown as a hostage to get things they want. But the Obamacare defunding is misdirection — Republicans don’t want people thinking about the terrible, economy-killing cuts they are demanding to keep the government running at all. And the Tea Party just wants a shutdown because they hate government, period. The public hates this and wants their government. Senate Dems: this is your opportunity.

Obamacare Misdirection — Look At The Cuts

One of the oldest Republican tricks in the book is to get everyone looking “over there” while they are looting over here. That could well be what this whole hopeless Obamacare defunding demand is all about. The other part of this Continuing Resolution (CR) is even more terrible, drastic, radical, stupid, cruel, economy-killing cuts.

In Friday’s post, The Misery Trick: Republican Bait-And-Switch On The Budget, I pointed out that this CR budget doubles down on the sequester cuts that are crushing the economy while adding $20 billion to military spending. That post outlined the consequences of these cuts, but included the 900,000 jobs they have directly cost in 2013, the 1.6 million jobs killed through 2014, the ripple effect into the larger economy, and the terrible effect that this shutdown talk itself is having and will have.

Republicans say they are threatening the shutdown over Obamacare, but their fallback position — the one we are all supposed to be relieved if we get it — kills the economy, kills jobs and (most important) really hurts people. The country can’t afford the sequester and the cuts that led up to it. Never mind the Obamacare misdirection, stop these cuts.

Public Hates This

The public is starting to become aware that Republicans are again threatening to shut down the government and destroy the economy to get what they want and the public just hates this. They are doing this again! The public is fed up with this crap.

Republicans are blind to this. They either are in their own right-wing media bubble or just don’t care. The ones in the bubble have been listening to Limbaugh and watching FOX and reading right-wing blogs for so long that they haven’t heard from anyone who thinks government (roads, bridges, teachers, police, water systems, courts, firefighters, roads, weather forecasts, ) is a good thing. Everyone they hear from hates government, wants Obama impeached and thinks public schools make people “dependent” on books – or something.

Other elected Republicans just don’t care. They might be fearing a (Koch-funded) Tea Party primary. They might be in one of those gerrymandered districts and know they can’t lose no matter what. Or they might be lining up a lucrative post-Congress lobbying job and want an excuse to leave office.

Tea Party Ayn Rand (“makers and takers”)Republicans just hate government, period, and are on a mission to show the public that government is in the way, and they can do better without it. (Seriously, a lot of them actually believe this.) That’s why they put the “poison pill” Obamacare defunding into the government-funding CR. You put a “poison pill” in something when you want to keep it from happening.They put this Obamacare poison pill into the CR because they want to keep government funding from happening.

But the public just hates the idea of a government shutdown. People can see that the economy is getting a bit better. People remember how the hostage-taking of past years hurt the economy and cost jobs — and they know that this time is not different. People are fed up with these hostage tactics and threats and infantile temper tantrums and they want to see stability and normalcy again.

Opportunity To Restore Funding

The public is going to be really, really angry at Republicans over this shutdown nonsense. At some point public anger will coalesce and a public consensus will emerge from the chaos. When this happens Republicans will be scrambling to get out of the mess they are making for themselves.

Robert Kuttner explains this in The Government Shutdown Boomerang, writing that “[t]he Tea Party is spoiling for this showdown, but the House and Senate GOP leadership wants to avert it. Even Karl Rove has argued against it.”

You know the Republicans are in trouble when they reject Karl Rove’s advice as too moderate. Polls show that most voters are more likely to blame Republicans for a government shutdown.

After covering budget standoffs as symmetrical “partisan bickering,” the mainstream press is at last treating these capers as irresponsible Republican cynicism. But the Tea Party Republicans, who dominate the House GOP caucus, are doubling down on what could be a suicidal strategy.

The Democratic advantage here is that the only way to prevent or end a Republican shutdown is going to be with Democratic votes in the House. The Democrats should demand a restoration of government funding before they bail the Republicans out of this mess they are creating. The Senate should set up the solution now and restore funding to pre-sequester levels.

Senators — don’t fall for the Obamacare misdirection. The real problem is the cuts. And Republicans have themselves in a mess. Modify the CR, restore funding to government and send that back to the House. This will help people, bring back about a million jobs, boost the economy and start the country on a positive path again.

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