The Who’s Who Of The Looming Government Shutdown

A major brouhaha has been building in Congress over the last few weeks, sparked by a threat from 15 Republican Senators to bring the government to a halt unless Obamacare is defunded.

And the drama didn’t stop as members of Congress headed back to their districts for the Congressional recess this month. In fact, the complications and tensions have only built outside the beltway, with fractions growing between elected Republicans. Here’s a look at the major players in the debate and where they stand:

THE SHUTDOWN ADVOCATESWho they are: Republicans members of Congress who are backed by the Tea Party, including big names like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Also conservative organizations including the Heritage Foundation.

Where they stand: There is no middle ground for those who want to shut down the government over Obamacare. They want the health law defunded and they don’t care what it takes, and so they have said they will not sign onto a new continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government if it includes funds for Obamacare. In order for the government to remain funded, Congress must pass a CR by September 30. Representatives have said they want to see Obamacare defunded in full “this year,” and 66 House Representatives signed onto a letter calling for a shutdown. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has deemed now “the best time” since Obamacare is “killing jobs, causing more and more Americans to be driven into part-time employment.” That opinion is backed by the conservative Heritage Action, whose CEO said that passing a CR would be a “concession.” Last year, 100 lawmakers in the House made a similar threat.


THE GOP LEADERSHIPWho they are: Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), Reps. John Boehner (R-OH) and Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Where they stand: Leadership is being exceedingly cautious about the idea of a shutdown, simultaneously trying to please the far right of their party while striking a more reasonable tone. They likely recognize that a shutdown would reflect poorly on their party and have avoided taking a stance entirely, simply saying that a shutdown won’t work to defund the law or that there simply aren’t enough votes.

THE SHUTDOWN OPPONENTSWho they are: More moderate Republicans, supporters of Obamacare, and GOP governors.

Where they stand: Obviously, proponents of Obamacare don’t want to see the government shut down in order to defund the law. But they are joined by a surprising collection of Republicans who would prefer to move past it. Some Republican representatives have had to do damage control at town halls over the past few weeks, trying to walk back constituents calling for a government shutdown. Republican governors, meanwhile, fear for what a shutdown might mean for their states. There is a real economic loss, felt acutely at the state level, when the government shuts down. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has also been a strong advocate against the shutdown, calling it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

REPUBLICAN VOTERSWho they are: Average Republican voters who elected the advocates, opponents, and leadership.

Where they stand: While Heritage Action has been vocally advocating for a shutdown, the organization polled voters on the topic, and it didn’t yield the same result. Despite skewing dark red, the poll found that Republican voters would blame their own party for a shutdown and that a majority of people think that, despite its problems, Obamacare should remain on the books. Only 44.5 percent of respondents in the over-Republican-sampled poll think the law should be repealed.

THE POTENTIAL VICTIMSWho they are: Government workers, residents of Washington, DC, and anyone in the U.S.

Where they stand: The American people stand the most to lose in a potential shutdown. As the GOP governors have indicated, a shutdown would be devastating for the economy. Virtually every government program would slow or grind to a halt. And since Washington, DC’s budget is under the purview of Congress, residents would be hit particularly hard — trash collection, parking enforcement, the district’s DMV, and all the libraries in the city would be forced to close.