September 27, 2013

With the Senate, as expected, passing a (relatively) clean continuing resolution (CR) and sending it back to the House — but with House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to first pass a Christmas tree debt-limit bill and then retreat on the CR reportedly in ruins — there’s a lot of pessimism right now about keeping the government open when funding runs out on Tuesday.

Eric Cantor and John Boehner Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

But it’s still in the interests of mainstream House conservative Republicans to avoid a shutdown. And for the same reason: They’re the ones who are going to have to allow something to pass after a shutdown, so there’s no advantage in waiting until then. There might be if they had a demand they really cared about and thought they might get, but that’s not the case here, since exactly none of the sane House Republicans (which is well more than half of their conference) believes that the GOP has any chance of defunding, delaying or repealing Obamacare in this particular fight.

There are basically two ways they can do avoid a shutdown. One is that they can pass a clean CR with mostly Democratic votes, and then those who don’t have to bite the bullet can pretend that they held firm with the tea partyers only to be betrayed by Boehner and a handful of moderates.

Or they could just admit what they think: that this particular battle has no chance for success, no matter what grandstanding demagogues might say. In the Senate, more than half of the Republicans were willing to vote against Ted Cruz in the key cloture vote. If more than half of the Republicans in the House would publicly say that they’ll vote for a clean CR — or even just ask for a clean CR to come to the House floor — they could move forward.

The first blame for a potential shutdown goes to Cruz and his allies. But they have no leverage at all if most House Republicans walk away from what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today called the “weird caucus.”  Which means that those mainstream House Republicans deserve plenty of blame as well if the government shuts down on Tuesday.

Sane conservatives in the Senate were willing to speak up and to vote to keep the government open. Where are the sane House Republicans?

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