As others have noted, this is their Plan B after trying and failing to bait the GOP into impeaching Obama. They know they’re going to have a tough night in November if something doesn’t change dramatically and fast, and whining about Burger King moving to Canada isn’t going to be that something. The new deus ex machina: Convince the public that not only might Republicans shut down the government next year, they might shut it down this year, to punish O for his various monarchical excrescences.
The only major Republican they had talking up impeachment when we went through that a few weeks ago was Sarah Palin. For the shutdown, they have a few congressional power brokers:
In an interview with POLITICO this month, [Mitch] McConnell said he’d “guarantee” that a future GOP Senate would attach policy riders to spending bills, daring Obama to veto them. Two months earlier, according to The Nation, McConnell made similar promises to conservative donors.
But McConnell also has predicted little drama this September, when he believes Congress will swiftly avert a shutdown and return home for the midterm elections…
[Marco] Rubio told conservative website Breitbart that if Obama moves on an executive order that could allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States, Republicans may tie a vote on overturning that action to a must-pass spending bill in September. Democrats swiftly moved to attack Rubio after his comments, linking immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to Rubio after King said on Wednesday that executive immigration action would alter “the dynamic of any continuing resolution.”
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is having lots of fun with Rubio’s comments, although Rubio didn’t explicitly call for a shutdown. He said he’d be interested in hearing ideas on attaching something to the next spending bill that would address Obama’s executive amnesty. Whether he’d accept a clean bill if Democrats block the sort that he has in mind was left conspicuously unsaid. Anyone think Rubio, who’s positioning himself as a guy who can unite conservatives and establishmentarians in 2016, is going to cast a critical vote to shut down the government on the eve of an election with the Republican donor class watching?
The most overt call for dramatic action if Obama goes ahead with amnesty has come from Steve King in the House, who thinks a shutdown is possible. But is it? Is there a critical mass of like-minded tea partiers willing to deny Boehner 218 votes? Here’s what Molly Ball is hearing:
A well-placed House Republican source tells me GOP leadership is increasingly nervous about the potential for a rebellion on the funding bill. The small but influential hard core of House conservatives were emboldened by what happened earlier this month with the border bill: A proposal favored by Speaker John Boehner to address the border crisis with emergency funding and expedited deportations had to be pulled when conservatives, egged on by Senator Ted Cruz, revolted…
All this is highly speculative. Officially, Republicans insist there will be no drama, although they aren’t yet saying what the plan is for getting the funding bill passed. “The last thing we’re going to do is shoot ourselves in the foot and jeopardize our chances of winning the Senate and gaining seats in the House,” a senior House GOP aide told me Wednesday. A top Senate Republican staffer agreed when I asked about a possible shutdown: “Absolutely not.” Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee (and co-author of the budget agreement), told Business Insider, “No, there will not be a government shutdown”—although he then added, “If there is a government shutdown, it’ll be because the Democrats brought it about.”
I’m trying to imagine the reaction of the business interests that bankroll the GOP establishment if Boehner can’t strong-arm enough conservatives to get to 218 weeks before the midterms. What’ll end up happening here, I take it, is the ol’ two-step where the House first votes on a bill to please conservatives that they know is doomed in the Senate and then, when Reid blocks it, ends up passing a clean bill by a smaller margin. E.g., Boehner will float a bill making continued funding of the government contingent upon Obama winding down DACA; tea partiers can vote for that, it’ll pass, and then when it dies in the other chamber a meaningful number of those same tea partiers will feel free to vote on the new funding bill with no conditions. They’re just not going to make any sudden moves so soon before a major election; if they were, there would have been more rhetorical support for impeachment earlier this summer. If they weren’t willing to risk a shutdown the last time they passed a spending bill before a major election, why would they risk it now? The rest of the party would never forgive them.
Here’s McConnell, who seemed to flirt with future shutdowns in an interview with Politico last week, reassuring CNN after a week of bad press that he think it’s “a failed policy.” I’m not surprised that he’d make some pro-shutdown noises to try to impress conservatives given that he’s stuck in a tight reelection race. I am a little surprised that Rubio, the ostensible great uniter on the right, would flirt with it. But then, I probably shouldn’t be: Rubio’s trying to get back in conservatives’ good graces right now by making a big show of opposing Obama’s executive amnesty. Establishmentarians will let him get away with that so long as he doesn’t end up casting a meaningful pro-shutdown vote. Rubio’s ideal scenario, I assume, is that the House will go through the two-step I described above and then he’ll get to cast a meaningless no vote on the clean bill in the Senate to prove that he opposed a GOP sellout on Obama’s amnesty. It’s all smoke and mirrors, but oh well.