Republicans still have to negotiate with each other before they even begin to negotiate with House and Senate Democrats and the White House
Last week’s increasingly intense Republican-on-Republican political violence has convinced me to raise my estimate of the chance that there will be a government shutdown from 67% to 75%.
Consider the following, all of which happened over just the past few days.
The 40 or so Republican conservative representatives from the so-called Freedom Caucus who have been threatening to unseat House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) significantly increased their insistence that the continuing resolution (CR) needed to avoid a shutdown not be considered if it includes continued funding for Planned Parenthood.
One member of the Freedom Caucus — Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA CA +0.00%) then resigned from the group over its threat of a shutdown.
Joined by others, many of these same GOP representatives also made it clear that they were extremely unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over the way he’s handling the disapproval of the Obama administration’s agreement with Iran. They called for the use of the “nuclear option” that would change Senate rules and prevent a filibuster.
McConnell, meanwhile, continued to make it clear that the votes do not and will not exist in the Senate either to pass a CR that defunds Planned Parenthood or to override the inevitable presidential veto of one that does.
McConnell also continued to say that there will be no shutdown even though, as I posted last month, it’s increasingly obvious he’s not in a position to make that promise. As definitive as they seem to be, at this point McConnell’s frequent statements about no shutdown seem to be more wishful thinking than leadership decrees and are not being taken that seriously.
In the face of the House and Senate leadership’s effort to come up with a compromise, many primarily Republican anti-abortion groups intensified their demand for a shutdown aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood, even if it ultimately won’t be successful.
House GOP leaders offered to provide ways other than through a continuing resolution for members to demonstrate their opposition to Planned Parenthood, but the Freedom Caucus and its supporters rejected those options as meaningless gestures. The prospect of voting on these alternatives (one of the votes happened in the House last Friday) didn’t stop the shutdown talk and may have further infuriated those opposing funding for Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, the threat to John Boehner continuing as speaker became so real that senior members of the House Republican caucus began to campaign to move up in the leadership ranks if there’s an election. The three top members of the GOP House leadership after Boehner – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – reportedly were all openly jockeying for position.
The campaigning then pushed McCarthy and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to announce that they supported Boehner even though having to make such an announcement demonstrated the true weakness of the speaker’s position.
Adding to the forces working against a CR, Texas Senator and GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz vocally and vociferously supported a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding during last week’s Republican presidential debate while the three other Republican senators also running for president – Lindsay LNN +1.41% Graham (SC), Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) – either said nothing or were far less strident about it. Cruz’s position put significant added pressure on the other three either to support a shutdown or cede ground in the GOP presidential nomination with a key group of Republican voters. If, as is likely because of Cruz, all four oppose a CR, McConnell’s position on the issue will become untenable.
Meanwhile, the White House, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) added fuel to the shutdown fire by making it clear that the price will be steep for the Democratic votes that could be needed if the GOP-on-GOP violence continues. That put even more pressure on Boehner because he’ll likely lose even more Republican support if he’s forced to rely on Democrats to avoid a shutdown.
That also may very well make a shutdown on October 1 the best option for Boehner personally.
So, with less than 10 calendar days left before the fiscal year begins, congressional Republicans still have to negotiate with each other before they even begin to negotiate with House and Senate Democrats and the White House …and there’s no obvious (or perhaps possible) resolution in sight.
That makes my 75 percent estimate of a shutdown seem optimistic.