Here's Why the Public Blames Republicans for an Imminent Government Shutdown

| Mon Sep. 30, 2013 1:23 PM EDT

Just another quick reminder, because sometimes this stuff gets lost in the fog.

Q: Why do we need a 6-week Continuing Resolution to keep the government running?

A: Because Congress hasn't passed a budget for the new year, which begins October 1st.

Q: And why is that?

A: There's no mystery. Both the House and Senate passed budget resolutions months ago, but Paul Ryan and the rest of the GOP have refused to open talks with the Senate to negotiate a final budget number.

Q: Why is that?

A: They've been crystal clear about this. They wanted more leverage for their demands, and they figured the only way to get it was to threaten a government shutdown. Here's the Washington Post last May:

Republicans face a listless summer, with little appetite for compromise but no leverage to shape an agreement. Without that leverage, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday, there is no point in opening formal budget negotiations between the House and the Senate.

....“The debt limit is the backstop,” Ryan said before taking the stage at a debt summit organized by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation in Washington. “I’d like to go through regular order and get something done sooner rather than later. But we need to get a down payment on the debt. We need entitlement reform. We’re very serious about tax reform because we think that’s critical to economic growth and job creation. Those are the things we want to talk about.”

This is why the public is likely to blame Republicans for a government shutdown: because Republicans have been very clear all along that they were deliberately stringing out the budget process so they could use a shutdown as leverage for their demands. At the time Ryan made the statement above, it looked like we were going to hit the debt ceiling before we hit the end of the budget year, so that was the "backstop." Now it's turned out that the end of the budget year will come first, so that's become the backstop instead. Either way, though, Republicans have been quite open for months about their desire to delay negotiations until they had a government shutdown of some kind to use as a threat. Now they have it, and they're using it.

So that's that. They're the ones who said they wanted a shutdown as leverage. They can't really pretend otherwise at this point.

It's also worth noting, just for the sake of nostalgia, Ryan's claim that he was doing this because he really, really wanted to talk about entitlement reform and tax reform. That was always laughable—nobody thinks you can negotiate stuff like that in a couple of weeks with a gun to your head—and we haven't heard much about it since. Still, it's worth preserving for the memory vaults.

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