October 2, 2013

House Republicans are set to vote today on several measures funding parts of the government piecemeal, to reduce the political fallout from shutting the government, a move that’s being widely interpreted as a sign we may be headed for a protracted shutdown. Dems will reject these measures and continue to insist Republicans buckle and pass a “clean CR.”

In another sign Dems may well hold firm and not let Republicans escape from this predicament on terms more favorable to them, there’s now serious talk among Democrats of not accepting a GOP budget offering unless it also includes a debt limit hike if this shutdown crisis drags on.

Several Senate Democratic aides told me this morning that this is seriously being considered, confirming a report in Politico. As one put it to me: “We are less than two weeks away from the deadline. If we were not having this shutdown fight, this is the week we would be moving a debt ceiling bill.” A second said: “It doesn’t make much sense to do a short term CR only to have to turn around and do it again with the debt ceiling.”

Needless to say, if it comes to this, the stakes in this battle will escalate dramatically — and the pressure on Republicans will intensify. This also comes as two new polls show Dems with an advantage in the overall battle.

A new CNN poll finds that Americans say by 56-38 that not raising the debt limit would be bad for the country, and would blame Republicans over Obama by 53-31. Also tellingly, a majority say raising the debt ceiling is more important than delaying major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. While it’s true some polls have found opposition to raising the debt limit, others have found clear opposition to tying the debt limit debate to Obamacare.

Meanwhile, a new National Journal poll finds a plurality of Americans — and of independents — think the GOP’s top priority is causing political problems for Obama, far more than say the same about Dems. As I’ve argued here before, it’s very possible public perceptions of a protracted standoff will be shaped less by details of the budget debate and more by already existing perceptions of which side is more committed to constructive governing and which is actively trying to prevent the system from functioning for political reasons.

But here’s the problem: Conservative Republicans remain convinced the public is on their side in this battle. Despite multiple polls showing disapproval of the law does not translate into public support for GOP sabotage of it, multiple Republicans are quoted today claiming the public will side with them over time.

The real danger here is that many Republicans — who are in an anti-Obamacare bubble where no good news about the law ever penetrates; where the most minor glitch confirms the law is collapsing under its own weight; and where huge majorities will support any tactic, no matter how destructive, designed to hasten that supposedly inevitable collapse — will remain convinced the public is with them as this showdown drags into a debt ceiling crisis. This makes miscalculation about the Dem resolve not to cave on the debt limit more likely, which in turn makes default more likely. And with it, unpredictable levels of economic havoc and destruction.

* CONSERVATIVES THINK THEY’RE WINNING SHUTDOWN FIGHT: The New York Times nicely illustrates the degree to which House GOP leaders have fallen under the control of a radical faction of conservatives committed to a Total War posture against Obamacare. Here’s GOP Rep. Raul Labrador claiming they’re winning:

“The moment where Republicans are least popular is right when the government shuts down. But when the president continues to say he’s unwilling to negotiate with the American people, when Harry Reid says he won’t even take things to conference, I don’t think the American people are going to take that too kindly.”

Conservatives think if they hang on long enough, opinion will turn against Dems for failing to “negotiate.” Surely Dems will take a hit too. But again, majorities already perceive the GOP as the uncompromising, unreasonable party here.

 * BUT SHUTDOWN VETERANS KNOW GOP IS IN WEAK POSITION: The Post’s big overview today notes GOP leaders think a shutdown is preferable politically to letting Obamacare go forward, but also quotes GOP Senator Tom Coburn, who was in Congress during the 1990s, warning of his GOP colleagues:

“What they’re going to do, they’re going to dig in harder until the pain becomes so bad they yell uncle,” he said. “And it isn’t going to be pain from the president, it’s going to be pain from their own constituents.”

The question now is whether enough House Republicans who want a vote on a “clean CR” will come forward and press for one.

* ANECDOTE OF THE DAY, GOP SABOTAGE GOVERNING EDITION: This, from Jonathan Weisman, deserves more attention:

To many Senate Republicans, the House conservatives’ position has become mystifying. In a meeting of Senate Republicans, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee rose to ask how the party would respond if it controlled the White House and the Senate and a Democratic House insisted it would not finance the government unless Washington rolled back laws hampering unions.

Oddly, many neutral commentators seem unwilling to state the problem as clearly as this Senate Republican did.

* THE CRISIS IS THE FAULT OF THE GOP: A Washington Post editorial today pins the blame for the shutdown crisis directly and unequivocally on the Republican Party’s Obamacare obsession:

Republicans have shut much of the government in what they had to know was a doomed effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. That law, in case you’ve forgotten in the torrent of propaganda, is hardly revolutionary. It is an effort to extend health insurance to some of the 40 million or so people in this country who have none. It acts through the existing private-insurance market. Republicans tried to block its passage and failed; they hoped to have it declared unconstitutional and failed; and they did their best to toss Mr. Obama out of the White House after one term in order to strangle it in its cradle, and they failed again….their methods now are beyond the pale.

* REPUBLICANS HAPPY NOT TO NEGOTIATE WITH OBAMA: Given GOP complaints that Dems won’t “negotiate” with Republicans to find a way out of the government shutdown crisis, this, from Paul Kane, is instructive:

Some House Republicans, who have largely driven this strategy against the wishes of most veteran GOP lawmakers, rejoiced at having avoided direct talks with Obama and instead passing bills without any heavily negotiated process.

Wait, so it’s easier to pass anti-Obamacare bills that Senate Dems will never accept than it is to enter into budget talks?

* DEMS MOCK GOP GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN “GROUNDHOG DAY”: The White House-allied Bridge Project is out with a new Web video that casts the government shutdown as the GOP’s “Groundhog Day” by recapping talking-head media coverage pinning the blame for it on Republicans — again. The serious message here, which you’ll be hearing a lot of, is that Republicans are ideologically incapable of breaking with the crisis-to-crisis mode imposed on them by the GOP’s Obamacare-obsessed faction, rendering the party incapable of engaging in constructive governing.

* AND AMERICANS SUPPORT STARBUCKS ON GUNS: A new Quinnipiac poll finds 66 percent of Americans, and even 41 percent of Republicans, say it’s a “good idea” for Starbucks to ask customers not to bring guns to its stores. Oh, by the way, 89 percent still support universal background checks, and 54 percent want stricter gun laws, but still: gun control is dead forever.

What else?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.