Wednesday, September 22, 2021


The Washington Post's Aaron Blake writes:
Republicans are threatening to withhold the votes needed to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded ahead of a crucial deadline in two weeks, putting the country on course for yet another fiscal crisis and government shutdown.

And they do so despite seemingly having full knowledge that these kinds of things have rarely panned out for them before.
So why do congressional Republicans do this? Because it does them very little damage and has significant long-term benefits for them, as I'll explain.
The first big showdown came in 1995 and 1996, when newly ascendant congressional Republicans led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich demanded that President Bill Clinton agree to their proposal for a balanced budget. The government shut down briefly twice....

[Republicans] paid a price in public opinion. A Post-ABC News poll conducted at the end showed 50 percent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans for the shutdowns, while just 27 percent blamed Clinton. A December Gallup-CNN-USA Today poll showed 62 percent said the fight was making them view Republicans more negatively, while 49 percent said the same of Clinton.
But who controlled Congress after the midterm cycle that followed the 1995-96 showdown? Republicans. Yes, Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996. But Democrats gained only two seats in the House and lost two seats in the Senate.
A similar scenario played out in 2011, with Republicans again emboldened by a big win at the ballot box in the preceding election. The new tea party wing demanded big cuts to the federal budget in exchange for keeping the government funded, with the two sides eventually agreeing to smaller cuts and Republicans dropping a demand for defunding Planned Parenthood.

Arguably the bigger battle came a few months later, though, when Republicans opposed raising the debt ceiling for similar reasons, with the two sides ultimately agreeing on a package of future spending cuts, known as the sequester.

As the deadline approached, 77 percent of Americans said the GOP was not willing to compromise enough, while 58 percent said the same of President Barack Obama. Other polls also showed Americans more skeptical of the GOP approach.
Barack Obama won reelection a year later, and Democrats had gains in the House and Senate -- but the House gains were small, and Republicans emerged retaining a 33-seat majority in the House.
There was yet another fight in 2013 — this time with the GOP refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless the Affordable Care Act was defunded.

The standoff ended in October, with Republicans again not getting what they desired.

... According to a Post-ABC poll, the party hit record lows in public opinion....
And then a year later, in the 2014 midterms, Republicans had double-digit gains in the House and won the Senate back.
The 2019 government shutdown — which became the longest in history — was a little different, in that it didn’t pit congressional Republicans against a Democratic president. President Donald Trump demanded funds for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with Democrats declining to provide the votes for it.

But the result was altogether familiar: Trump didn’t get what he demanded, and a majority of Americans (53 percent) blamed him and congressional Republicans, while just 29 percent blamed Democrats....
And then in the 2020 election Republicans had a net gain of 12 seats in the House, nearly seizing control from the Democrats, and while they lost the Senate, they won seats Democrats were expected to have a chance of winning in Maine, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Montana, and Kentucky.

So if there's a downside for congressional Republicans, it's not a significant one. Now here's the upside:
* They get to make a big show of being the party of fiscal responsibility, reinforcing the conventional wisdom about the GOP, even though Republicans raise the debt ceiling routinely after passing budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy.

* They get to make it seem as if Democrats are the party that spends like drunken sailors -- a message to which the mainstream media and many swing voters respond very well. (This also reinforces conventional wisdom.)

* They get to impress their voters as take-no-prisoners fighters.
So, yeah, it works out just fine for them.

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