In a Politico interview, Mitch McConnell has announced that a GOP majority in the Senate next year could mean another government shutdown:
"We're going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy," McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. "That's something he won't like, but that will be done. I guarantee it."At The Atlantic's Wire blog, we're being told that Democrats are thrilled:
... McConnell risks overreaching if he follows through with his pledge to attach policy riders to spending bills. If Obama refuses to accept such measures, a government shutdown could ensue.
The only thing that would make congressional Democrats happier than a Republican attempt to impeach President Obama is if Republicans force another government shutdown.But why shouldn't McConnell threaten a shutdown? Democrats are hoping that the threat will infuriate liberal and moderate voters and drive them to the polls to vote Democratic -- but what might do that is an actual government shutdown, not the threat of one. There's no reason to believe that a threat articulated in late August on a website for political pros and junkies is going to drive voters to the polls two and a half months from now, especially when those voters are actual or potential Democratic voters, who are notoriously hard to motivate. Hell, even the public-opinion impact of the government shutdown we experienced last year was evanescent -- as soon as the shutdown was over, the Democrats' advantage over Republicans on generic-ballot poll questions began to shrink (and eventually reverse), and it took a lot less than two and a half months. The blue hump in the middle is the fleeting moment when Democrats had the greatest advantage over Republicans; that moment ended almost immediately after the shutdown did.
So when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised the specter of a government shutdown fight if Republicans retake the Senate in November, Democrats rejoiced.
And by rejoiced, we mean they feigned outrage.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, rapidly released a statement accusing McConnell of "reckless gamesmanship."
... Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's chief spokesman, Adam Jentleson, chimed in on Twitter.
Senator McConnell's tin-ear pitch: vote Republican if you want more shutdowns and more confrontation. http://t.co/8FOnE1XVRJ— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) August 20, 2014
The fact that voters don't remember government shutdowns helps explain why McConnell's threat might be serious. If you were a Republican and you were looking at this chart, and at other 2014 polls, you'd think: Why shouldn't we shut down the government again, just as long as we don't do it a week or two before Election Day 2016? Voters won't remember. They sure don't remember the last shutdown, otherwise they wouldn't be on the verge of reelecting a GOP House and (probably) a GOP Senate.
And, of course, Very Serious People still think a GOP sweep in November could conceivably lead to a more responsible Republican Party. Here's John Harwood of The New York Times:
With control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans might feel a greater responsibility to join Mr. Obama in governance by striking politically appealing compromises.STOP. Please stop saying this, everyone in the mainstream media.
I should acknowledge that Harwood offers this as a possibility, while saying that the more likely path is confrontation and gridlock. But why throw this in at all? It's not going to happen. Yet voters still think it might, because, outside the small subset of us angry lefties, most of America still hasn't come to terms with how deeply sociopathic the Republican Party is. Even the main premise of Harwood's piece underestimates the GOP's sociopathy: Harwood writes that if Republicans win the Senate, they might extend Washington's period of "dysfunction," which could give Hillary Clinton a chance to run against Washington in 2016. Yeah, John, and you think they aren't going to extend the period of dysfunction if they lose the Senate? Of course they are.
But they might as well, because they won't be held accountable by voters -- they have trouble winning presidential elections, but they never seem to have trouble winning anything else. So if McConnell needs to send a signal like this to curry favor with the far right in his reelection bid, he should go for it -- the GOP won't suffer any consequences.