If Republicans do happen to force a shutdown in Washington, it’s very possible they’ll be embracing a political loser while doing the rest of us an immense favor.
With three Washington-manufactured fiscal apocalypses — sequestration, the debt ceiling and a new “budget” — on the docket, the idea of shutting down government to extract concessions from the iron trap sometimes known as the Obama administration has gained traction among Republicans. Or, I should say, the idea of threatening to shut down Washington has.
Pat Toomey, John Cornyn and other conservatives have said as much, though they’ve littered their shutdown statements with comforting modifiers, such as “partial” and “temporary,” to allay the fears of Americans, who apparently can’t fathom existence without the Department of Commerce. Certainly, it would energize the conservative base, and it might be effective in pressuring Democrats into genuine spending reforms. Because, despite what you may have heard, it’s worked before.
As recent Washington arrival Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pointed out, “we didn’t default on our debt” after the notorious 1995 shutdown battle between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. “And the result was balanced budgets — and some of the greatest fiscal responsibility we have seen in modern times from Congress — because fiscal conservatives stood together and said, ‘We need to be responsible.’”