Boehner’s Government Shutdown Dilemma


The House passed yet another short-term extension of the budget on Tuesday. But John Boehner faced a revolt by 54 Republicans who voted against the bill for not going far enough to slash spending, effectively forcing the GOP Speaker to rely on Democratic votes for the stop-gap measure to pass. As Talking Points Memo‘s Brian Beutler explains, the vote now puts Boehner between a rock and a hard place: either he makes concessions to Democrats to pass a final budget, risking provoking greater fury from the tea party right, or he gives into the GOP’s right flank—risking a government shutdown, as the Democratic Senate is unlikely to pass any bill that guts spending to satisfy hard-line conservatives. 

Conservative Republicans say that Americans will be on their side if they force a government shutdown, insisting they’re simply carrying out the public’s desire for fiscal restraint. But according to a new poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, the majority of Americans say a government shutdown would be harmful—and they’re more likely to blame Republicans than President Obama, a distinct reversal from two weeks ago. The Washington Post explains:

Large majorities in the poll say a partial shutdown of the federal government would be a ‘bad thing'” but each side squarely blames the other for not compromising in the budget negotiations…Among those who say a government shutdown would be harmful, about twice as many say they would hold the GOP, rather than the president, responsible. A similar question two weeks ago showed that about as many said they would blame Obama as the congressional Republicans for a such a stoppage.

So at the end of the day, Boehner’s Republicans have overplayed their hand in gutting the budget, forced to face the wrath of their right flank or the wrath of the public. And Democrats still have a chance to come out on top in this protracted budget battle. 

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.