Thursday, September 19, 2013

Same Old Armageddon? Maybe Not.

You've probably seen or heard the old cliche about the definition of insanity a thousand times, so we won't repeat it again for you. That maxim has been running through the minds and off the tongues of our staff a great deal lately, as the October 1st deadline to keep the federal government open for business rushes towards Congress, and we all find ourselves in a very familiar situation.

It's not as though we haven't seen this setup before. For the umpteenth time since President Obama took office, Republican extremists in Congress are threatening to shut the government down if they don't get their way. Some Republican members of Congress have even been campaigning over the last few weeks in favor of shutting down the government if they don't get their latest political binky, the death of Obamacare. Of course, the GOP's ideas on how to actually fix the problems our government currently is facing are about as fresh and new as a polyester leisure suit from 1974.

The match this time though, isn't quite shaping up as it has in the past - including in 1995, when Congressional Republicans really did shut down the government.

For one thing, multiple policy deadlines are coming almost on top of each other. There's the October 1st deadline to continue funding the Federal government. There's also the debt ceiling deadline, which the U.S. is expected to hit in mid-October, and which President Obama has insisted he will not renegotiate.

The GOP civil war is also raging hotter than it has during any of the previous battles between Congress and President Obama. House Speaker John Boehner is also weaker than he's been at any time since President Obama was elected, as Boehner's capitulation to the tea party extremists showed on Wednesday.

Boehner's surrender to the tea party, and his agreement to tie the looney idea of defunding Obamacare - which will never pass - to the Continuing Resolution to the government has only postponed the inevitable, as Greg Sargent clearly broke down using game theory on Wednesday.

As Greg details, no matter what choice House Republicans make, Democrats have the upper hand. Every option ends up forcing the CR back to House Republicans, who in turn will be forced to choose between passing a clean CR to keep the government going - which will make their right-wing extremist constituents and right-wing media machine explode in their faces - or sticking to their insane beliefs, which will make them take the full blame for the government shutdown.

The only thing Democrats and the President have to do right now, to ensure Republicans actually face this grueling choice, is exactly what the Republicans in Congress have done to Democrats in Congress since the GOP took over in 2010: Absolutely nothing.

Of course, we'd rather the federal government didn't shut down at all. That said, since the current "leaders" of the GOP don't exactly have a great track record of decision-making, we're willing to bet there will be a government shutdown at the end of this month. That the Republicans will be almost exclusively to blame for that shutdown? Certainly seems like cosmic justice to us.

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