In the absence of any tangible or new policy solutions, Republicans are promising one concrete action should they win a majority in Congress: government shutdown. Picking up on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s two-tiered strategy, many Republicans are supporting Gingrich’s call to defund “every radical bill passed by the [Democratic] machine,” particularly the health care reform law.
Government shutdown would seriously jeopardize aid to vulnerable populations like veterans, Social Security and Medicare recipients, and 33 million Americans in need of health insurance. To defend such a disastrous strategy, Republicans are now shifting the blame on to President Obama.
In April, Gingrich insisted that is a shutdown occurred this year, it’d be because “President Obama wants to force a crisis.” Yesterday, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) picked up the blame Obama mantra. In an interview with King, national radio host Thom Hartmann pushed King to clarify his shutdown position, citing ThinkProgress’s report on the “blood oath” King demanded House Minority Leader John Boehner take to ensure the House would include defunding the health care law in every appropriations bill next year. While reiterating his plan to “shut off all funding” for the health care law, King insisted that President Obama’s actions, not his, that would cause the shutdown:
HARTMANN: Well apparently, is this true that you asked John Boehner for a blood oath that he would shut down government if you guys were not successful in killing off healthcare?
KING: Well no…And but the way I recall phrasing that, and I’m not going back and review the tape, is that if, I mean I stand on this side, I want to shut off all funding that would go to implement Obamacare. It’s entirely constitutional to do that, that’s how the Vietnam war was ended.
HARTMANN: Well Congress has the power of the purse, they can fund or shut off anything they damn well please.[...]
KING:…Did I call for Boehner to shut down the government, and no. In fact, Boehner can’t shut down, well I guess he could shut down the government if we agreed with him. But the first step would be we would put the rider on the appropriate bills that would prohibit the funding from being used to implement Obamacare but we would fund the government. And then under those scenarios, it’d be the president that would shut down the government, if he vetoed a bill because it didn’t include in it funding to implement Obamacare. That would be the president…
HARTMANN: Well if you guys don’t get the senate, that bill won’t get through the senate.
KING: If the house says its not going to be funded, it’s not going to be funded. That’s how it would be. But it wouldn’t be Boehner shutting down the government…
While Gingrich and King would like to shift blame to President Obama, the GOP’s own history marks that move as a “disastrous miscalculation.” In the winter of 1995, Gingrich devised a three-week shutdown of the entire federal government by refusing to pass a budget or a continuing resolution to fund government operations. From the “instant the shutdown began that November, the public sided overwhelmingly with the president” with 49% of voters blaming Republicans for the shutdown an only 26% blaming President Clinton. Gingrich’s disapproval rating, however, skyrocketed to 65%, forcing him to recognize that the GOP “strategy failed.”
And “there really is good reason to believe that a 2011 shutdown would backfire against Republicans just like the ’95 one did,” Salon’s Steve Korancki points out. “Sure, voters hate the idea of deficits and love the notion of a balanced budget. But they also like Medicare, which Gingrich’s GOP targeted for cuts in its plan, and are made uncomfortable by anything that seems radical — like a government shutdown.”