Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rand Paul Might Shut Down the Government

This story from The Hill about Rand Paul's threatened filibuster of the FY 2011 spending deal somehow misses one of the biggest parts of the story: if Paul wants to, he almost certainly could force a short-term government shutdown.

Remember, the Senate can move very quickly when it collectively wants to, but a single Senator can force a delay. A single-Senator filibuster is generally defeated by attrition (that is, waiting him or her out). Once multiple Senators are involved, however, the only way to defeat the filibuster is through the cloture process -- which not only requires 60 votes but also takes a few days, and possibly a week or more if those Senators really want to maximize delay. The Hill story doesn't say anything about other Senators willing to join Paul, although he does say that "we" haven't decided about the filibuster strategy yet; it's unclear whether this means "myself and other Senators," "myself and other Tea Parties," "myself and my other selves," or what. Of course, it's also Paul would insist on a cloture vote but agree to expedite it or to allow yet another bridge CR to pass in order to prevent a government shutdown in the interim. The point, however, is one Senator, and certainly any small group of Senators, could force a short shutdown if they want to.

Anyway, I covered some of this last week before the deal (see items 4 through 6), but it's worth a reminder -- the usual sequence is a leadership agreement followed by ratification on the House and Senate floors, but every once in a while something screwy happens. As we learn more details of exactly what was agreed to, it's still very possible that this thing could collapse completely, or at least cause a little excitement before it's signed into law.


  1. I could see Rand Paul doing this, or threatening to do it, to make a point. All of the “Armageddon: Government Shutdown” headlines would give him quite a national spotlight for whatever he wanted to say.

  2. He'd be playing out a John Galt fantasy. Destroying society to prove the supremacy of the capitalist ubermensch.

  3. I think he wants to destroy the government to "save" America! From its government. (I call it the My Lai defense.) Joh Galt would be proud. (Assuming his creator could get to the point of telling us he would be proud.)

    Considering how much of a contrarian Rand Paul is, I doubt anyone can actually predict what he will do. I doubt he can predict what he will do. Although I doubt he would shut down the government to make a point - he must remember what happened to Jim Bunning? Surely..?

  4. Carolyn,

    Since Rand is in Bunning's seat, I'm sure he does :) I don't think he'll do it if he believes it would mortally wound him as it did Bunning... and it might not. The politics of Bunning's actions are very different -- in addition to specifically targeting the unemployed, he objected to the unemployment extension as a matter of policy. Rand would only be shutting down the government for a single day (or so I imagine) just to make a point.

    I do think this would help Boehner and Paul Ryan -- a vocal tea party makes the Republicans look like the moderate reformers... with Obama and the Dems holding to tired ideas from the Bush administration.

    The Ayn Rand references really are too easy aren't they ;)


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