Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
With a government shutdown looking increasingly likely, Republicans are blaming Democratic leaders for failing to come to an agreement on government funding for the rest of 2011. If House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the Democrats fail to strike a deal by Friday, the government will shut down. "There's no other explanation except that [Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader] wants to have a government shutdown and blame it on Republicans," Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
But other Republicans have made it clear that there's major resistance within the GOP itself to any compromise whatsover. Those Republicans have concluded that any deal that falls short of the drastic $61 billion in cuts that the House GOP is demanding would constitute abject failure. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) explained the position of the House's right flank to reporters on Tuesday:
It's also clear from the number of people who have gone up at the microphone at our conferences that it's $61 [billion] or die…
Many of our constituents will think we've caved if it's less. Now the reality is if you get to $58 or to $59 or $60 [billion], then say it's just silly to not take a deal like that. But you never know. There will be some that will say, if it's less than $61, if it $60.5 [billion]—someone's going to say it's not enough.
There was a phrase coined for such posturing during the last government shutdown, when Newt Gingrich was speaker: the Perfectionist Caucus. And if Boehner has too many ideological purists on his hands, he won't have any choice but to shut down the government—or else risk being stripped of his leadership role by his own caucus members.