Who Is Afraid of a Government Shutdown – And Why?

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

The United States House of Representatives and Senate are facing another federal budget deadline.

Last December, before Republicans assumed their current House majority, seventeen Republican senators voted with Senate Democrats to pass a $1.7 trillion House omnibus bill that, massive deficits aside, “funded” the government through September, 2023. Now, a budget deal must be reached by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

Unsurprisingly, the White House budget proposal supported by congressional Democrats includes huge spending increases and far more future spending. To be fair, Republican budgets typically increase spending, too, but usually – on paper, at least – at a slower rate.

Predictably, media outlets are full of apocalyptic headlines placing the burden on the GOP, e.g., “House Republicans return to messy appropriations fight as government shutdown looms.”

A government shutdown? Quelle horreur!

There is talk of action to kick the can down the road – again – but the U.S. Constitution specifies that the House must originate appropriations bills.

Anxious House Republicans may be tempted to allow minority Democrats to prevail, because “polling” suggests that Republicans will be blamed for a government shutdown.

However, let’s review what happened the last time Congress faced – and allowed – a shutdown:

In Oct. 2013, media blamed Republicans for a 16-day federal government shutdown that largely impacted government employees, agencies and federal buildings.

White House and congressional staffers, and thousands of “nonessential” federal employees were furloughed. However, “essential” services like the military, law enforcement, among others, and entitlement programs were not shut down. U.S. residents could still send/receive mail, receive Social Security and welfare benefits, and travel by air.

Because most regular people’s lives remained untouched, very few Americans noticed the shutdown. News consumers knew it was a “crisis” only because the #Resistance at ABCCBSNBCCNNNYTIMESWAPO declared it one.

But, Americans who understand that “shutdowns” aren’t really shutdowns were mostly indifferent to the left’s shutdown theater.

Then, in the only meaningful poll – the November, 2014 General Election – Republicans made sweeping gains in the Senate, the House, and in numerous gubernatorial, state, and local races. Despite being blamed for the 2013 shutdown, Republicans gained control of the Senate for the first time since 2006, and increased their majority in the House.

If the past is prologue, though, institutional, career congressional Republicans will fearfully (cynically?) embrace this current “crisis” – the “imminent threat” of a shutdown – and use it to rationalize and “justify” ever-increasing spending authorizations, then blame their own inadequacies and irresponsibility on the Democrats’ “certain” Senate filibusters and/or presidential vetoes.

Republican officeholders who do so will tell Americans that protecting GOP sinecures, redistributing taxpayer money and growing government are more important than fiscal or moral responsibility.

Without shutdowns, members of both parties in Congress benefit from more government, favorable press and, usually, reelection. Both sides win; taxpayers and future generations lose.

In 2013, House conservatives’ actions failed Senate concurrence or compromise. The resulting shutdown taught conservative voters some useful lessons: First, it takes guts, so, in order to stand on principle, Republican officeholders must have some – of both; Second, the GOP’s biggest problems are big-government, institutional, career Republican naysayers.

Today, members of the Freedom Caucus, another generation of conservative House Republicans, are trying to curb further massive spending increases.

One member, Rep. Robert G. Good (R-Va.), said the worst thing would be to pass bills that keep Democrat policies and spending levels in place, “…just so they’ll get passed through the Senate, and we’ll avoid being criticized for the government being shut down.”

Rep. Good: “We should pass those bills implementing Republican priorities, cutting back to pre-COVID levels, incentivize the [Democrat-controlled] Senate, and then the Senate has the choice as to whether or not to fund the government and avoid a shutdown.”

Absent principle, influential congressional Republicans who refuse to engage for fear their “brand” will suffer will have chosen “timidity” as the Republican brand. They fail to grasp how many people, including registered Republicans, don’t care about the GOP’s “brand” or Republican jobs and careers.

They only care about Washington’s scarcest commodity: Honest, responsible, moral governance.

Republican conservatives prevailed the last time, so, why be afraid of another government shutdown?

Congressional Republicans must force Democratic votes and presidential vetoes, because, without those, there’s no way for American voters to tell the differences between the parties in Congress – or if, in fact, there are any…