Last night, the federal government shut down for the first time in over seventeen years. At the last moment, John Boehner pushed through a conference rule, but Harry Reid rejected it, demanding a six-week clean CR before agreeing to negotiate any further on the budget. Republicans seized on the rejection to declare that Reid chose to shut the government down, which is true in the short term, but ignores several attempts by Reid earlier in the year to get the House into an FY2014 budget conference only to be rejected by Boehner.  That’s the reason why Congress needs a CR at this point, as the budget ran out and neither chamber’s proposal for the FY2014 budget is acceptable to the other.

So we have a shutdown now, which seems to be the mark of seriousness of purpose in this fight.  As long as the shutdown is relatively short — say, wrapped up by the weekend — it won’t do much political damage to anyone.  After a week, though, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the backlash will work.  Democrats think this will be a replay of 1995-6, but that’s not a given, thanks to the unpopular ObamaCare program at the center of the fight.  As I note in my column today at The Week, the polling looks a lot different than in 1995-6, and the outcome isn’t exactly how it is remembered:

But not so fast, argues Harry Enten at the Guardian. Clinton’s landslide re-election in 1996 can easily be attributed to the economic recovery that was well underway, rather than the shutdown. Polling showed that Clinton and Congress both suffered slight drops in approval ratings during the shutdown itself, and Clinton’s resurgence in approval came later in 1996. Congressional approval also rebounded later, although not to the same extent. More to the point, Republicans went into the showdown already 19 points below Clinton on the budget issue, whereas President Obama only has a three-point edge over Republicans now. …

[After the 2012 election], polling on ObamaCare has declined considerably. A year ago, the New York Times/CBS News poll showed a 42/46 approval on ObamaCare. Last week’s poll showed it at 39/51. A new CNN poll that arguably showed Republicans more at risk in a shutdown also showed support for the ACA at 38/57, with majority opposition in almost every demographic in the survey. Obama’s own standing on health care has declined in the NYT/CBS survey to 40/54.

In the end last night, Republicans had trimmed down their amendments to the CR to just a delay on the individual mandate only (not the exchanges or subsidies that open today) and the removal of the Congressional exemption. They may or may not get one of those two after a few days of holding out, but the House Republicans know they can’t force an end to ObamaCare in this budget process now. In my column, I argue that this might be for the best, and that this might be a good time to let the voters feel the pain of the program they enabled in the 2012 election:

Indeed, if Republicans can’t stop ObamaCare now, they may be better off just getting out of the way of the nearly inevitable crash — a political crash, if not organizational.

A huge amount of political damage awaits the White House and Democrats running in midterm elections. Health-care prices are skyrocketing over 2013 premium rates, a fact that HHS tried to dodge by claiming that the exchange prices came in “lower than projected,” when in fact they had compared the prices to projections for 2016, not 2014. Former Romney adviser Avik Roy and the Manhattan Institute ran the actual numbers and found that prices rose across the board by more than a third, and by 97 percent for younger men (55 to 62 percent for younger women), and that subsidies won’t make up the difference for many if not most of them.

The White House then tried to argue that the monthly premium rate would be negligible under the exchanges no matter how much they’ve gone up. Obama himself said that the exchanges would allow consumers to buy “good health insurance for the price of your cellphone bill or less.” TheAssociated Press pointed out, though, that the “bronze” plans Obama referenced required a lot more out-of-pocket costs for consumers as well. “Those who choose bronze will have to pay 40 percent of their medical bills out of pocket through deductibles and copayments,” the AP wrote in its fact check. “A family’s share of medical costs could go as high as $12,700 a year, or $6,350 for individuals, on top of those cell-phone-like premiums.” The upcoming price bomb will hit in the three months of open registration for the January 1 mandate deadline, when all of these expectations of lower premiums and better coverage come crashing down on the 85 percent of Americans who had health insurance four years ago, when 87 percent of those liked their coverage just fine.

At this point, why should Republicans fight to delay that illusion-busting event for another year?

At some point, Boehner will have to cut a deal with Reid on both a CR and the FY2014 budget, and the government will reopen. Republicans now have Democrats on the record opposing even a minor delay in the trainwreck while exempting themselves from the system Democrats insist on imposing on everyone else.  The long-term solution to ObamaCare is political, not budgetary, and now the GOP has to start building its case for the midterms in order to take a critical first step toward that political solution.

Update: The more the public sees of these signs, the more damage will occur to one side, or more likely all sides:

I’d expect both sides to push these images in the hope of damaging the other, too.