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.