Government Shutdown in March?

As President Obama submits his FY 2012 budget to Congress, my congressional expert, RB, is predicting that there will be a government shutdown when the current continuing resolutions to fund government operations run out on March 4. He expects that the Tea Party freshmen in the House–the ones who sandbagged their leadership (particularly GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy) and rejected an extension of several provisions of the Patriot Act. They’re naive and inexperienced, and are likely to see rejection of another continuing resolution as a sign of their seriousness about fiscal responsibility. I think there’s a very good chance he’s right. The leadership will, I am sure, ultimately persuade them to support a new CR, but it may take some time. McCarthy is probably waking up in the middle of every night in a pool of his own cold sweat.

It’s notable that we are still working on continuing resolutions. It’s not unusual for Congress to fail to pass a budget by the beginning of the fiscal year (Oct. 1), but it’s unusual for them to be going this late, and with no sign of intending to ever actually pass a formal budget. In their 1996 battle with President Clinton, House Republicans shut down the government first in late November, then again in mid December into January. A shutdown in March would be, I believe, unprecedented.

I also think that we may never before have operated a full year under continuing resolutions, without ever passing a budget.* And there seems to be a good chance that a budget may not be completed this year, given how determined Republicans are to undermine Obama and his policies, particularly the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But RB, a Republican, mind, worries that there will be a re-run of the Gingrich-Showdown–i.e., that the Republicans will lose and help Obama win renewed public support. The freshman Republicans, especially, are likely to not understand this dynamic, egotistically thinking their goals have widespread and deep public support.

So if it all works out that way, you read it here first.

*I am not sure about this, but a) I don’t remember hearing of it happening before, b) a few minutes of quickie internet research, which is all I have time for tonight, hasn’t turned up a case, and c) budget politics has gotten uglier in the past couple of decades, so if it hasn’t happened during that time I would be surprised to find it had happened before then. I stand open to correction, of course.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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2 Responses to Government Shutdown in March?

  1. D. C. Sessions says:

    I think you’ll find that quite a few of us (/me included) started predicting this after the PATRIOT fiasco showed that Republican party discipline was lacking.

    However, it wasn’t the budget that I focused on, it was the extension of the debt ceiling. That is really going to get the teabaggers up in arms, and the leadership was planning to use it as a lever to push through all sorts of side issues. Now they’re either going to have to get Democrats on board or else finesse the issue by having Republicans support the form of a bill they’ll vote against while counting on Democrats voting for a bill while holding their noses.

    They may pull it off, but not if the Democrats can pull together some semblance of organization.

  2. Lance says:

    I remember well the last time the Republicans played chicken with the budget during Gingrich’s reign. It blew up in the face of the Republicans. The media portrayed the Republicans as obstructionist ideologues and it helped boost Clinton’s popularity.

    If the Tea Partiers don’t remember this little history lesson I think you are right that they will soon be reliving it. When people don’t get their checks it is easy for the media to portray the Republicans as heartless meanies inflicting needles suffering onto the masses while protecting the interests of big business.

    It’s the kind of story that journalism school freshman dream about.

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