Planning ahead for a government shutdown

PLANNING AHEAD FOR A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN…. The last time Republicans had a great midterm cycle under a Democratic president, they proceeded to shutdown the federal government — twice. The public, with good reason, blamed the GOP, and party leaders took a major hit in the polls.

In his 1996 State of the Union address, then-President Clinton told lawmakers, “Never, ever shut the federal government down again.”

Today’s Republican Party seems inclined to ignore the suggestion.

Likely Senate candidate Joe Miller (R) in Alaska told Fox News last week that GOP lawmakers must have the “courage to shut down the government” in order to eliminate government programs he doesn’t like. Right-wing CNN personality Erick Erickson said with child-like excitement yesterday, “I’m almost giddy thinking about a government shutdown next year. I cannot wait!”

And sleazy GOP consultant Dick Morris told activists late last week that Republicans should do exactly as Gingrich/Dole did 15 years ago, but this time it’ll work out better.

“There’s going to be a government shutdown, just like in ’95 and ’96 but we’re going to win it this time and I’ll be fightin’ on your side,” Morris said at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation Conference on Friday in Washington. […]

Morris sounded a similar note in April, suggesting in a speech the Republicans should force a shutdown over health care funding.

Josh Marshall added yesterday, “Obama’s veto pen can do a lot of stuff. He can veto a defunding bill too. The key though is that he’s got a government to run and he needs a budget. All of which suggests that this ends up pointing in the direction of a government shutdown type standoff.”

Last month, I put the odds of a government shutdown, in the event of a GOP majority, at over 50%. I continue to think that’s a reasonable assessment. Indeed, it almost seems likely — Republicans have decided that President Obama is not to be negotiated with, and there is no acceptable compromise between the White House’s position and the GOP’s.

Besides, if Republicans are rewarded in the midterms after moving sharply to the right-wing, they’ll consider it a mandate for unflinching radicalism. I’d be surprised if they didn’t shut down the government.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.