The impending government shutdown is one of the most striking examples of this dynamic.
Indeed, it seems that those who emphasize the problem in some cases fully accept that their side is responsible.
On the public side, the potential liability for the closure is currently distributed relatively evenly. An Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday showed that 29 percent of American adults said they would blame congressional Republicans for the shutdown, while almost as many of them joined in blaming either congressional Democrats (14 percent), or President Biden (13 percent). (Another 32% say they would blame “everyone equally.”)
But the blame really begins to crystallize when we go over the cliff. Republicans who push for concessions in legislation that would avoid shutdowns almost always shoulder more responsibility. And now more than ever, Democrats have all sorts of things to work with to pin this one on the Republican Party.
Let’s start with the process issues. One of the main factors that differentiates this shutdown from others is that it is not so much about the inability of the House and Senate to agree on each other’s budget proposals, but rather about the inability of the House, controlled by the Republicans, to adopt them. Nothing. That could certainly change by Saturday’s deadline to avoid a shutdown, but for now, House Republicans are failing to pass it. even measurements that normally pass through.
They also only have about five votes to pass their own plan. Combine that with a complete failure at the moment — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) working with Democrats — and it means a very small number of holdouts have immense influence over a shutdown s They decide to burn the house down. .
To complicate matters, the Senate took its own action on Tuesday. With GOP leaders such as Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaling that he no longer wants any part of his party to force the shutdown, most Senate Republicans — 28 of 47 who voted — Joined Democrats on Tuesday to pass a short-term continuing resolution that would keep the government funded beyond Saturday.
This would certainly reinforce the idea that the failure of the House to pass a bill — or even just to pass a bill that had a chance of becoming law, which the Freedom Caucus proposals do not do — is the fault of McCarthy and Co.
Beyond that, there are the many unnecessary comments from some fighters.
Donald Trump has pushed his party to dissolve the government if it doesn’t get what it wants.
“UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, STOP IT!” » Trump said on his social media platform on Sunday. This echoes his rhetoric during debt ceiling negotiations earlier this year, when he said that “if they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re going to have to default.”
Republicans would much prefer to say that it is The Democrats’ failure to negotiate this would cause the shutdown. But now the leader of the Republican Party is making the Republicans the subject of the sentence, by taking the necessary measures to “shut it down” or “default on payment”.
(Trump has, in the same breath, tried to convince Republicans that “whoever is president will be blamed.” But both current polls and the history of shutdowns – including when Barack Obama was president and the Republican Party supported blame – deny this statement.)
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), one of the leaders of the GOP budget holdouts and a possible effort to oust McCarthy as president, made perhaps more relevant comments last week.
“We’re going to have a government shutdown, and it’s absolutely President McCarthy’s fault,” Gaetz said. “We can’t blame Joe Biden for not moving our individual spending bills forward. We can’t blame House Democrats. We can’t even blame Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”
Rep. Andrew Ogles (R-Tenn.) echoed that argument to some extent, saying, “Ultimately, leaders procrastinated and created disorder. Now we have to find our way. And if that means staying (in Washington) a few more weeks with a shutdown, that’s no problem.”
Gaetz appears to want to blame McCarthy rather than his party as a whole, in an attempt to force McCarthy’s hand and possibly oust him. But the video is there for Democrats to view: a prominent figure saying it’s not Biden or the Democrats’ fault.
McConnell also, as recently as Wednesday, acknowledged that his party would be to blame. He and other establishment Republicans, unlike Trump, may be making this admission to try to avoid disaster.
“I am not a fan of government shutdowns. I’ve seen a few over the years,” McConnell said last week. “They never produced any policy change, and they were always political losers for the Republicans.”
He added Wednesday after the Senate sent its continuing resolution to the House: “We can fund the government for another six weeks, or we can shut down the government in exchange for zero meaningful policy progress.” »
Perhaps recognizing both these dynamics and the strong possibility of a shutdown this weekend, McCarthy decided to try to shift the blame to Biden. His argument is essentially that Biden needs to get closer to the GOP to combat illegal immigration. But it’s somewhat inconsistent given that the main stumbling block right now is the House GOP’s inability to come together, including on a package involving border security.
None of this means that the GOP will ultimately bear an overwhelming share of responsibility or that it will cost the party an electoral cost. We are an increasingly polarized country and the lasting political impact of a shutdown 13 months before an election is questionable. Polls conducted during the debt ceiling standoff earlier this year also showed a much closer division than usual over which side would be blamed for failing to pay the national debt.
But there’s a reason people like McConnell are worried about this and are increasingly publicly trying to avoid it; it is unnecessary and risky for the party’s political prospects, especially since the party has very little to show for its past brinkmanship.
Of course, as we’ve seen repeatedly in recent years, the party isn’t very interested in McConnell’s vision for winning power. He much prefers the showmanship of Trump and Gaetz to the political realism of McConnell. And if it costs a few RINOs their seats — and perhaps GOP control of the Senate — apparently, so be it.