With a potential government shutdown looming, the GOP is attempting to have it both ways on the issue. Earlier this week, an “exasperated” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) declared that a government shutdown was “off the table,” only to be undercut by another GOP House leader, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who told ThinkProgress that a shutdown was “on the table.” Despite Cantor’s best efforts, over a half-dozen other Republicans are publicly calling for a government closure.
Republicans in the pro-shutdown caucus are trying to frame the effects of a potential shutdown as minor. Appearing on Fox News a few months ago, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) argued in favor of a closure, declaring that, “I don’t think [a government shutdown] would hurt one bit.” Paul also told ThinkProgress last weekend that a shutdown is “not something I worry about.”
Now, freshmen Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) is also parroting the notion of a pain-free shutdown. ThinkProgress caught up with Kelly at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Though he stopped short of supporting a government closure, Kelly defended the potential consequences of a shutdown. He argued that even if there is a shutdown, the government is “not going to stop, people aren’t going to lose their Social Security checks and they’re not going to lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid”:
KEYES: If these cuts, either defunding or dismantling Obamacare, either dies in the Senate or dies at Obama’s veto pen, would you be willing to join Jim DeMint and others who have said that this is worth trying to have a showdown and potentially a government shutdown just to show how serious we are about this?
KELLY: I don’t know that you have to have a government shutdown. We can do things with funding. At the end of the day, Congress controls the purse strings. So when you defund and you take the funding away from certain things, you in fact shut down that part. But shutting down the government, nobody wants to hear that. The other thing is, I don’t like that terminology of shutting down the government because really, it’s a fear factor. People know it’s not realistic. The government is not going to shut down, it’s not going to stop. People aren’t going to lose their Social Security checks and they’re not going to lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid. I think we have to be careful when we use that kind of talk. I think what we’re talking about is, look, we control the funding, let’s make sure we’re doing the right thing for the people.
KEYES: So even if that were to happen, theoretically, it wouldn’t be as bad as people make it out to be?
KELLY: No, I don’t think so. I really don’t.
Kelly’s assertions are simply not true. One need look no further than the federal government shutdown of 1995 for proof. During the nearly four-week shutdown, new Social Security claims were not processed; during a 2011 shutdown, all Social Security checks (as well as Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements) would be disrupted, according to a prediction from Donna Shalala, Health and Human Services Secretary during the last shutdown. According to a Center for American Progress report entitled “The Big Freeze,” the shutdown ultimately “cost the American taxpayer over $800 million and rattled the confidence of international investors in U.S. government bonds.”
But don’t take ThinkProgress’ word for it. Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared on the Laura Ingraham Show yesterday and said a shutdown would be nothing short of a “trainwreck”:
INGRAHAM: Would you accept, or even demand, a government shutdown if you don’t get the entitlement reform that you said is necessary as we move forward?
BACHMANN: I don’t think anybody wants to see the government shut down. That’s a trainwreck when something like that happens because quite literally, no checks go out, everything stops. You can’t do that, you can’t just have the military stop. We have to have protection.