Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Start the Shutdown Clock?

The House just voted down the CR that would have funding the government through mid-November; almost all Democrats opposed it because of the pay-fors for disaster funding, while about 50 Republicans defected because, well, they really don't like to vote for appropriations bills. Here we go again! Nicolas Mendoza suggests we should "start naming them, like hurricanes."

The story here is that they need to pass something by the end of the month, but they were about to go out for a recess after this week. So there's a lot of breathing room, except that it would require them to stick around.

It's worth noting a couple of things is that John Boehner has done a really good job up to now of winning the votes he's had to win, but it can't be easy. The second is that the Senate wasn't going to go along with the House bill anyway, so while this is certainly a setback (especially for the Members who want to get out of town on schedule), the eventual vote was going to require some combination of Democrats and non-crazy Republicans. In other words, the vote today could wind up being more about a black eye for Boehner than about a shutdown...but then again, we could still get a shutdown, although it doesn't appear to me as if the distance between them is very large at this point. I'm seeing on twitter right now suggestions that Boehner may just take out the offsets, which presumably would get him the Democrats -- but would it lose more Republicans, who just finished arguing how important they are?

I had thought over the last week that we were on course for a real showdown in November, and not this week, but I guess we'll just have to see.


  1. I think the Democrats should move the goalposts. If they really voted against this over a 1.5B cut to electric cars, that's pretty thin gruel. Rather, that (it's coupled with the disaster thing) is just the cover: Dems voted against this because there really is no sense in Democrats voting for a Republican budget to bail them out. It's letting a minority of Congress run, not the Tea Party, but the 185ish (I don't have the exact breakdown in front of me) Republicans who are willing to vote to have a government. Why should they get to run government?

    Seriously, if the Tea Partiers are going to be intransigent, that's a problem for the GOP, not for the Dems. Moderate Republicans rarely rode in on a white horse to save Democratic initiatives from the far left; why should Democrats do it?

    Since the GOP is not at all serious about budgeting, I think it's only right that they be forced to do it.

  2. @Matt that gets at an important question that it seems like the Dems will inevitably have to answer: to what degree are they going to follow the Republicans down the path of focusing on politics over policy? Especially if the GOPs tactic works and they win the White House. Should the Dem senators filibuster everything and hinder the conservative agenda as best as possible, stopping corporate tax cuts and social safety net cuts, and other unsavory policies that liberals hate? What happens to the country in the long-term if the current status quo remains and our government is brought to a stand still every few months?

  3. Anon:
    It's a valid question. The problem is that the Dems are the only ones in the room in the last 15 years willing to negotiate in good faith (on some things; there are issues on which neither side negotiates in good faith).
    Were the Dems to take the path the GOP does, there'd be essentially no chance of governing effectively ever. As it is, however, it's unilateral disarmament. I think one of the problems that liberals have had with Dems over the years is a real sense that, while committed to the cause, elected Dems don't play hardball. I know our esteemed host disagrees with me on this (at least somewhat).

    An interesting question, though, is what produces the focus on politics or policy? From a liberal POV, it's very obviously self-serving to say that the Dems push for policy because they have a coherent argument while the GOP doesn't because they don't. I don't buy that.

    Rather, I wonder if the choice of politics over policy is produced by party homogeneity. That is, since Republicans are nearly all identical on policies, they focus on politics...because the inevitable outcome of electing more Reps is more conservative policy. Whereas Dems have no such guarantee; electing a Dem almost certainly gives you a more liberal MC than electing a Rep, but a generic Dem could end up a Franken or a Manchin, whereas a generic Rep is, well, there ain't much variation there. Thus, Dems focus on policy because who knows who gets elected the next time: 2006 brought in a bunch of moderate Dems.

    This smacks of a consequence of the preceeding conditions of conditional party government (to take the conversation into the depths of polisci). JB: thoughts?

  4. Matt: "since Republicans are nearly all identical on policies"

    Seriously? You think Sen. Coburn's political philosophy is identical with that of Rep. Cantor? There's a large slice of the Republican Party that is at best uncomfortable with what they see as a necessary alliance with the irrational religious right. You yourself discuss the GOP's problem with the Tea Party in your first post above. Yes, the GOP has had better party discipline (for better or worse) in recent years, but that certainly doesn't mean that they agree on everything.

  5. Sullivan: there's a lot more similarity than difference in the GOP caucus.

    Just looking at voting scores, it's very obvious. Republicans are VERY tightly clustered, and have been for nearly 20 years. Democrats have been growing more tightly clustered, but aren't really close to the GOP.

    I would argue that the difference between TPers and the mainstream GOPers is mostly tactical. The mainstreamers are willing to accept 3/4 of a loaf, the TPers aren't.

    As for whether Coburn and Cantor (or any two MCs) disagree, the voting records kinda speak for themselves. While the GOP might have internal disagreements, they certainly don't seem to have voting disagreements very often.

  6. ....which is pretty much what I said, isn't it? That's party discipline, not "party homogeneity".


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