Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boehner and the Shutdown

Jonathan Chait has a strong argument up today against my conclusion that John Boehner should avoid a shutdown. His best point, I think, is that while Boehner is in trouble regardless, at least if there's a shutdown he can say that he fought hard for conservative priorities. That's a fair point.

Still. Chait asks "What is the downside to cutting a deal? GOP backbenchers revolt against Boehner and depose him as Speaker of the House." But my argument is that at the end of the day, for better or worse, Boehner will eventually have to sign off on a deal. The question is, I suppose, whether he'll get more points for "fighting" -- or whether he'll be in more trouble because the longer the shutdown, the more high-profile it's going to be, and the less conservatives outside the House will be to look the other way and forget about it once it's over.

Not to mention that within the House the non-crazy part of the conference will have a lot less reason to support Boehner if he couldn't spare them from a budget disaster. One that, once it starts, may be very difficult to control.

In the event, it probably doesn't matter; odds are that Boehner doesn't really have much choice at this point, anyway.

At any rate, if you find my argument compelling, be sure to read Chait's different interpretation, since he may well be correct.


  1. My thought had been roughly the opposite. If we posit that a government shutdown is bad for the GOP, then the Speaker is going to want to be able to say with credibility after the fact, "I told you that wouldn't work." I guess that kind of thing doesn't really win you points with the base, but he has to think about the future of the party. If he ties his fortunes to the Tea Party and then it doesn't work out, then he has to go if the shutdown isn't a bed of roses.

    Not saying it's right, it's just the way I was thinking about it. The situation has a bunch of nuances that are hard to track.

  2. Oh, one other thing. The 1995 shutdown didn't work out well for Newt, but I think we forget that Newt's ouster was due in part to Newt's personality, the fact that he was disliked even among Republicans on the Hill, and so on. Boehner would not necessarily be subject to those problems. But alternately, Boehner probably has to contend with a higher pitch of shutdown enthusiasm than Newt did.

  3. When you say "the non-crazy part of the conference" you are assuming facts not in evidence. Who are these non-crazy House Republican of whom you speak?


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