Back to the Shutdown Brink

If you want to know why pols like Bobby Jindal are so willing to risk ridicule by insisting that a government shutdown engineered by Republicans would actually be Barack Obama’s fault, it’s helpful to realize how close these birds are to the brink of that happening, despite all the post-election talk of “getting things done.” WaPo’s Robert Costa reported on Friday that resistance is growing among congressional Republicans to the original plan of enacting a continuing appropriations resolution to run until the end of the fiscal year before embarking on a series of confrontations with the White House.

Instead of passing a spending bill in the coming days that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, Republicans are considering a short-term measure that would expire early next year, according to more than a dozen top lawmakers and their aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

When Congress reconvenes in the new year, Republicans would then pass other short-term bills, each designed to create a forum to push back against the president and, possibly, gain concessions.

The popular term for this tactic is “hostage-taking,” and as Greg Sargent reminds us today, once that door has been reopened, there are an awful lot of ransom notes Republicans are clamoring to write beyond the DACA expansion:

Republicans had previously been planning to possibly use government funding fights — which carry with them the implicit threat of a government shutdown — to reverse Obama’s already achieved policy gains. We know this because Mitch McConnell himself usefully confirmed it on the record in August. He said the new GOP Senate majority would attach riders to spending bills, designed to get Obama to agree to roll back his policies on the environment, health care, and elsewhere, or risk a government shutdown. McConnell made the same pledge in a private Koch confab with wealthy donors.

As a new action–if not a new policy–the DACA expansion is obviously more convenient an excuse for hostage-taking than, say, the usual demand for dismantling the Affordable Care Act. But it will sure bring back memories of the 2013 shutdown. I suppose the midterm victory may have convinced many Republicans they have nothing to fear from destructive tactics, because the media and voters will ultimately thrown up their hands and blame “Washington” or the president for whatever they do.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.