Why House GOP Leaders Can’t Just Avoid a Shutdown With Democratic Votes

At Mischiefs of Faction (newly acquired by the digital imperialists at Vox), in the course of an extended post on the unusual unity and occasional power of the House Democrats who are in a decided minority, Matthew Green of Catholic University offers a nicely succinct explanation of why the House is probably drifting towards a government shutdown, as demanded by the 40-or-so member House Freedom Caucus:

[W]ith a government shutdown looming, the HFC has flexed its muscles, insisting that its members will not vote for any spending bill that fails to defund Planned Parenthood. Coupled with the threat from a handful of conservatives to remove Boehner as speaker (however unlikely that may be), this move puts significant pressure on Boehner to pass a spending bill the HFC wants, even if it will almost certainly be vetoed by Obama or blocked in the Senate. Boehner’s alternative is to turn to the minority party, which has insisted it won’t vote for any bill to fund the government unless Republicans agree to negotiate an increase in nonmilitary as well as military spending.

If Boehner caves to Democratic pressure, he’ll be guilty not only of again violating the informal Hastert Rule against passing legislation opposed by a majority of Republicans, but of undercutting the one budget principle on which the GOP is still reasonably united.

As Green also notes, House Democrats have no particular reason to play nice in these negotiations. Nobody’s going to blame this powerless crowd for a government shutdown, and even if they blame Obama (which is unlikely), he’s not going to be on the ballot in 2016, is he?

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.