I’ve been very hesitant to say anything about the possibility of a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires this Friday at midnight because…honestly…I’ve been predicting that one would occur since last year and have been wrong in much the same way that some economists are accused of predicting 10 of the last 2 recessions.

It bears mentioning, however, that the most recent dispute over government spending is proving to be far more intractable than most observers and participants had imagined it would be because (1) the recent GOP reticence about being blamed for stalemates on Capital Hill seems to have evaporated and (2) the fight over funding for the rest of fiscal 2012 is now combined with so many other politically tough or tantalizing issues.

I would not be at all surprised, therefore, if one of three things happen by the stroke of midnight on Friday, December 16:

  1. The current continuing resolution is extended until the following Friday to give everyone another week to work out a deal.
  2. The current CR and the payroll tax cut is extended until sometime early next year.
  3. There’s a government shutdown this weekend.

A weekend shutdown would create headlines but would be only minimally disruptive. The only people who would really feel it would be those planning to go to national parks, which would be closed, and the producers of the Sunday talk shows, which would have an additional topic to discuss.

The one thing I’m sure of is that whatever happens won’t be announced until close to the last minute. This is in keeping not just with what has happened all year long, but with what Tea Party House members told me directly last February when they said that the only thing the GOP did wrong during the shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 (Gingrich v. Clinton for those of you who don’t remember) was that Republicans capitulated too early and didn’t get the best deal.

Here’s what I said about that meeting when I posted about it in early March.

[Cross-posted at Capital Gains & Games]