Reuters is reporting that the House GOP’s efforts to produce a budget with appropriations bills coming in lower than the debt limit deal’s caps may produce a government shutdown this September. As one who was very much expecting a shutdown at some point last year, I may not have great prognosticating powers on this one, but: I don’t buy the hype on this at all.

No, I think that it’s what Stan Collender diagnosed:

Getting the reduced levels in the budget resolution but not in the appropriations bills may seem to the base like the same type of hollow victory the GOP has won on other budget issues, and it could create disappointment so close to the elections that the leadership won’t have the opportunity to explain it away.

Well, actually, I think it’s what he diagnosed, but I think it’s a smarter move than he thinks it is. After all, Republican Members aren’t worried about Tea Party revolts in September and October, when intense GOP voters will be riled up with hatred of Barack Obama and (gulp) love of Mitt Romney (okay, maybe not love, but they’ll be all-out for him if the election is at all close). No, the time to worry is now, when primary elections are on their way. And House Republicans already presumably think their Tea Party constituents are fairly easily conned with the “typo of hollow victory the GOP was won on other budget issues.”

Moreover, it’s unlikely that House Republicans will be voting for anything in a Budget Resolution that they didn’t already vote for last year. So while I do think that they’ve provided plenty of fodder for Democratic attack ads, they won’t be adding anything new, and as long as they back off in the fall (perhaps, as Collender predicts, with a continuing resolution to push everything into a lame duck session), it’s not as if we’re close to the election now.

Basically, I think it makes lots of sense for House Republicans to go for a hollow budget victory now, and then capitulate in the fall. And as hollow budget victories go, a Budget Resolution in a year in which there’s no reason to expect the Senate to produce their own budget is a great place to do it. But, no, I don’t think it’s a prelude to a pre-election government shutdown fight. If Republicans didn’t have much interest in that last year, they’re really unlikely to do it when they’re about to be on a (general election) ballot.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.