By Greg Sargent September 28 at 9:12 AM
As congress heads back to work, a series of obstacles could lead to another government shutdown.
The emerging Beltway wisdom on John Boehner’s abrupt resignation is that it could make things even more chaotic as we barrel towards a government shutdown. Hard-right lawmakers are “emboldened,” and some GOP presidential candidates are urging GOP Congressional leaders (including whoever replaces Boehner) to stand firm in using government funding as leverage to defund Planned Parenthood. Helpfully, the deadlines for long-term funding and the debt ceiling are looming just when the GOP primaries really heat up.
And yet, a new Quinnipiac poll finds that a solid majority of Republican voters does not want a government shutdown:
Would you support or oppose shutting down the government over differences about federal government funding to Planned Parenthood?
Republicans oppose this by 56-36. Americans overall oppose it by 69-23. And this comes despite the fact that Republicans overwhelmingly support defunding Planned Parenthood, by 71-25 (in contrast with overall Americans, who oppose defunding the group by 52-41). Meanwhile, a recent CNN poll found that a plurality of Republicans thinks keeping the government open is more important than defunding Planned Parenthood, 48-44; conservatives think this by 52-38.
Apparently Republican and conservative voters are capable of wanting Planned Parenthood defunded while simultaneously opposing a government shutdown to accomplish that goal. Crazy, huh?
This hints at the real target audience that those pushing for the use of government funding as leverage to defund the group are trying to please. If this polling is right, we may go through a protracted and destructive showdown — which, by the way, could be damaging even if a shutdown is averted at the last minute — even though only a hard-core minority of Republican and conservative voters want it.
Norman Ornstein has a good piece recapping the history that led us to this point. He argues that by casting virtually everything Obama tried to do as a radical threat to everything about this country that is recognizably American, GOP leaders helped create and nourish the forces that have since made it so hard for GOP lawmakers to embrace pragmatism and compromise where necessary. E.J. Dionne, meanwhile, notes that the feeding of those forces has made the conservative grassroots even less willing to accept the basic structural explanation for the GOP’s inability to roll back the hated Obama agenda and its reconfiguration of America, i.e., Republicans lack the votes to overcome Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes. As I argued the other day, those pushing for a shutdown fight are exploiting all of these things to great effect — and there may be no better manifestation of it than the spectacular success of Donald Trump’s candidacy.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that it’s very possible only a minority of Republican and conservative voters feels this way, or at least only a minority of them is angry enough about all of it to demand maximum confrontation this fall, the consequences be damned. If so, it’s a reminder of the striking degree to which that minority continues to set the GOP’s agenda.