In what has been billed as an intraparty fight between the “purists” and the “pragmatists,” Republican governors, with the notable exception of Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, fall squarely in the pragmatist camp.
Pushing the shutdown proposal are many GOP members of the sophomore and freshman classes of the House. Their plan is to vote against any of the 12 bills needed to run the government for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 if they contain any money for the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), effectively shutting down large parts of the government.
A political impasse between then-President Bill Clinton and the GOP Congress led to a government shutdown totaling 28 days in November and December 1995 and January 1996. Adroit juggling of accounts by then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin managed to somewhat mitigate the effects of the shutdown, but industries dependent on the government lost millions.
At the time, public opinion seemed to be along the lines of “a plague on both your houses,” but Clinton went on to easy re-election and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an architect of the shutdown, went on to lose his job. That was in large part that most of the major media, and eventually most of the public, came to blame the shutdown on the Republicans, even though both parties were partly responsible.
Unlike in 1995-96, House Republicans will be alone on the shutdown. Obama and Senate Democrats are in the stands with their drinks and popcorn while two wings of the Republicans slug it out and the mainstream media eggs them on.
Meeting with other governors in Milwaukee over the weekend, GOP chief executives said that the cutoff of federal funds to constituents and, even worse, the uncertainty could do great economic damage to their states.
Even governors who virulently disagree with the act and have refused to implement key parts of Obamacare said the tactic was likely to backfire badly.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, as he proved in taking on the state’s teachers union, is not one to back away from a fight. But he told The New York Times: “The worst part is the uncertainty. My great fear would be anything that provides great uncertainty for the employers of our country.”
There’s uncertainty enough in the workplace and in boardrooms already, thanks to Obamacare’s coming bludgeon. But there’s nothing like the lack of a functioning government to instill uncertainty in both citizens and their employers. Walker said, “I think there are other ways to pursue this.”
Indeed, despite his occasional anti-government rhetoric, we doubt Ronald Reagan would have done anything as drastic or irresponsible — or as politically shortsighted — as to push for a government shutdown.