As voters head to the polls today, Republicans are expected to make big gains and it appears increasingly likely that one of the first actions a GOP-controlled House may take after Congress reconvenes next year will be to shutdown the government. Republicans have been increasingly bold in recent days in calling for a shutdown, with RNC Chairman Michael Steele going from saying that he has “not heard any candidates” call for a shutdown, to saying Sunday that the GOP is “not going to compromise on raising the debt ceiling” — something that will almost certainly lead to a shutdown.
Considering that Republicans faired very poorly after the last GOP-induced government shutdown in 1995, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) — who would likely chair the House Financial Services Committee if the GOP takes control of the House — made a preemptive strike against President Obama yesterday in the looming government shutdown debate, telling Fox Business that Obama may “force” the GOP to shut down the government:
BACHUS: I would think when we send the spending bills to the president he will veto them, and then the hard vote will be when he sends them back and we will be faced with another situation where he will probably try to force us to shut government down and we are going to have to be brave this time.
HOST: So you’re predicting a government shutdown?
BACHUS: Well I’m predicting that he will veto our spending bills because he’ll say it doesn’t spend enough. And at that point, if he wants to shutdown the government, we’re not going to cave to him and we’re not going to increase taxes. And we’re not going to lose our resolve to cut spending. And it’s going to take bravery [...]
HOST: But are you worried about overplaying your hand here if you’re talking government shutdown? I mean the last time Republicans did that back in ’94 and ’95, that didn’t work out too well for then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.
BACHUS: Well, we wouldn’t be shutting it down. We would be cutting out the excessive spending. And if the president wanted to shut the government down, but we wouldn’t want to shut the government down.
Obama has given zero indication that he would veto GOP spending bills because he wants to spend more or that he wants to shutdown the government, but Bachus is no doubt aware that a Republican-led Congress will have to face a possible shutdown as soon as February of next year, the month after Congress reconvenes, when it will likely have to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Failure to do so would almost certainly result in a devastating government shutdown and default on government debt, causing an economic catastrophe, but increasing debt spending is anathema to the far-right tea party rhetoric that has come to dominate the GOP.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s shutdown in 1995 was politically devastating for newly-minted GOP majority. “From the instant the shutdown began that November, the public sided overwhelmingly with the president, whose job approval ratings instantly recovered to levels not seen since the early days of his presidency,” Salon’s Steve Kornaki noted. Republicans came off looking “like immature ideological zealots” while “Clinton portrayed his veto as an act of principle and responsible leadership.”
Bachus went to excessive lengths to blame Obama for the government shutdown that only Republicans are now talking about now, saying, “we wouldn’t be shutting it down” and that Obama “wants to shutdown the government.” Bachus’ aggressive first strike on Obama so early on suggests that House Republicans see no way to avoid a shutdown, and will thus be forced to try to convince the American people that their obstructionism is somehow not to blame.
Media Matters highlights a clip of right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh ludicrously claiming that “[n]obody in the Tea Party, nobody anywhere, is talking about shutting down the government.” In fact, numerous Republican congressional leaders, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and several Republican candidates have all talked about a government shutdown.