October 2, 2013
Supporters of the Head Start Program and members of Congress rally for an end to the partial federal government shutdown outside the U.S. Capitol Oct. 2. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Supporters of the Head Start Program and members of Congress rally for an end to the partial federal government shutdown outside the U.S. Capitol Oct. 2. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It’s not clear that Democrats will ever offer anything further to end the shutdown; they may feel that a clean continuing resolution for six or 10 weeks at sequestration levels is more than enough win for Republicans, and that they don’t ever have to offer more — especially since it’s very likely that Republicans will be blamed for the shutdown (given that, you know, they’ve been going around threatening a shutdown all year).

But for now, there’s no way the Democrats can make any counteroffer, because it’s not clear that the Republican shutdown strategy can hold. Here’s what we know: 17 Republicans are saying, publicly, they would vote for a clean continuing resolution. That’s enough to produce a majority if all 432 Members of the House vote and all 200 Democrats vote with those 17 against the other 215 Republicans.

On top of that, reporters within the GOP-aligned press say that more than 100, perhaps as many as 180, Republicans are willing to vote with those 17 if Speaker John Boehner put a clean continuing resolution up for a vote.

Now, Democrats probably can’t actually force a vote by parliamentary maneuvers, so even if there’s a technical majority to reopen the government, they can’t enforce it. However, politically it’s hard to believe that Boehner could sustain his position if a solid majority of the House was publicly against him. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on such things, but my guess is that somewhere between 25 and 60 public Republican declarations of support for a clean continuing resolution — especially with the reporting that dozens more agree — would be enough to end it.

So there’s really little for Democrats to do now but wait to see where the drip, drip, drip of public declarations of Republican dissent take things. Jennifer Bendery reports 17 total at this point; four of those announced today, and there’s still time for more. There’s really no way to know how many of the shadow dissenters will wind up going public, but as long as the drip, drip continues, it would be crazy for Democrats to do anything but wait.

Again, it’s not as if there’s a lot of pressure on the Democrats to give anything substantial, one way or another. But they might be willing to offer at least a symbolic victory to Republicans — if they need to. This tells us they may not need to. So that’s where we are, on day two of the shutdown. For now, watch that list; you can be sure that the White House is.