Why to Expect a Government Shutdown This Year

I recently talked to an old Washington hand, a veteran of Capitol Hill and several White Houses, and asked what was the most intriguing development in the new Congress. He said it was the recent House vote against the F-35 jet engine.

His reasoning was that for new House members to scuttle an appropriation that brought money and jobs to their Speaker’s district was, like the movement of the needle on a siesmometer, a small thing that signalled a much larger disturbance in the underlying ground. Many of the Tea Party House members haven’t been in politics for even a year and already they are flipping off the most powerful establishment Republican in the country.

Boehner is a smart and experienced politician, so he knows that a federal government shutdown could backfire just as it did for Newt Gingrich. But if he didn’t know it already the F-35 vote shows that he can’t control many of his own troops; he can’t even be sure they won’t frag him.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

10 thoughts on “Why to Expect a Government Shutdown This Year”

  1. My first thought is that Tea Party House members, unlike the Republicans in Congress during the Bush Presidency, are opposed to budget deficits. (Both groups of Republicans *claim* to be against deficits, but we know that the former group of Republicans aren’t actually opposed to deficit spending because of their votes in Congress.) One piece of evidence against this is that the Tea Party House members voted unanimously to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was a vote in favor of increasing the deficit.

    In any case, we do seem to be seeing somewhat of a power shift in the Republican party. Perhaps the new members of Congress see themselves as more aligned with the Koch brothers than with the leadership of the Republican Party.

  2. There will only be a shutdown if Obama doesn’t cave, and I can’t imagine a scenario in which Obama doesn’t cave.

  3. “One piece of evidence against this is that the Tea Party House members voted unanimously to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was a vote in favor of increasing the deficit.”

    I read this as meaning that Tea Party House members care about deficits, but deficits aren’t the only thing they care about. They also care about rolling back federal power grabs.

    They do seem to be a little bit different from the usual run of Republicans. It’s yet to be seen if the GOP establishment will succeed in co-opting them, and in the process doom itself.

  4. The teabagger wish to return to small government is romantic nonsense.

    We can no more go back to billion dollar deficits than we can go back to being citizen farmers doing big science in our kitchens and building ipods in our garages. Get over it: Multi-trillions are here to stay. The world’s global money supply continues to expand like bacteria on fresh agar. And the era of quadrillion dollar budgets/debts is probably less than 20 years away. And there is nothing the teabaggers can do about it. They are dodo birds drunk on small beer and dreaming about elysian fields of gold ingots. They are the lamest excuse for a political party since the Luddites. Unfit to be anywhere near the help of the good ship Empire….

    Bah humbaggers….

  5. A song, for koreyel

    This is the good ship Lifestyle.
    All my friends jumped ship.
    I elect me the captain.
    This is the loneliest voyage
    I’ve ever been on.
    Up in the crow’s nest
    Over there! I see land!
    First mate? There is no first mate.
    This is the good ship Lifestyle.

    (Chorus)
    Sail away from the world
    Sail away from the world
    So steer a course
    A course for nowhere
    And drop the anchor —
    My little empire.
    I’m going nowhere.
    This is the good ship Lifestyle.
    I’m going nowhere.
    This is the good ship Lifestyle.
    I’m going nowhere.
    This is the good ship Lifestyle.

    I fly my very own flag;
    TV dinners for one
    At the captain’s table.
    Repel all boarders!
    Draw the curtains tighter!
    Where’s the crew? There is no crew!
    This is the good ship Lifestyle!
    (Repeat chorus)

  6. Kenneth Almquist says:

    “My first thought is that Tea Party House members, unlike the Republicans in Congress during the Bush Presidency, are opposed to budget deficits. ”

    The Tea Party is a movement which suddenly sprang into life, protesting the sort of things which Bush both did and scaled up, one month after Bush left office.

    “(Both groups of Republicans *claim* to be against deficits, but we know that the former group of Republicans aren’t actually opposed to deficit spending because of their votes in Congress.) ”

    Note that deliberately exploding deficits and then using them as a weapon has been a standard GOP procedure since the start of the Reagan administration.

    Something that has been a standard technique for 30 years is not going to be dropped easily, and any claims to being different should be judged under that basis.

    One piece of evidence against this is that the Tea Party House members voted unanimously to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was a vote in favor of increasing the deficit.

    In any case, we do seem to be seeing somewhat of a power shift in the Republican party. Perhaps the new members of Congress see themselves as more aligned with the Koch brothers than with the leadership of the Republican Party.

  7. Keith,
    It’s so frustrating when you make such sense on things that are difficult to hear. I would hav to agree with you on this one (as usual).
    Deni C.

  8. Only the most naive or the most cynical person in the world could believe a vote against PPACA is a vote for a larger deficit. You mean you supposedly intelligent academes accept the CBO analysis at face value, and therefore expect the rest of us to accept it? Are you crazy?
    You really have to stop believing your own baloney.

    As for the vote against the F35, it was bi-partisan. It signals determination that something will, and realization that something must be done about deficits that will bankrupt the country and inflate the dollar to the point that all savings will be effectively confiscated. That is why entitlements are actually in play now, and why proposals on social seurity and medicare that were political suicide 6 years ago will now be considered seriously. Attempts to avoid such discussions, as personified by the administrations budget dud, will backfire badly.

    The liberal orthodoxy, as expressed above, that deficits would (and presumably should) grow to the sky, is itself bankrupt. The drive to restore federalism, reduce the public sector and its attendant wasteful expenses, and rein in entitlement growth has only just begun.

  9. Call me naive, but I’ve thought for a long time that the second engine option for the F-35 was a bad idea from the start. It’s maybe the only issue on which I would agree with the House teabaggers. (Not sure we even need the F-35, or that many of them. Save $$ by going with new blocks of F-15, F-16 & F-18, which are good enough for all forseeable contingencies.)

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