The country continued to head toward a government shutdown Thursday as House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held dueling press conferences--Boehner to announce his intention to hold government funding hostage to defunding the Affordable Care Act, and Reid to announce that the measure stood no chance of passing the Senate.
The White House Office Of Management and Budget, signaling that they take the threat seriously, asked federal agencies to prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown Tuesday.
The announcement follows a summer-long civil war between the wings of the Republican Party. In July, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a close Boehner ally, predicted the showdown on NOW in July, telling Alex, “Shutting down the government is a suicidal political tactic. Eventually it will be reopened, but the president will not have capitulated and you will have discredited yourself and along the way you will have hurt the American people." Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.” But Cole, Burr, and reportedly 90% of House members weren’t enough to stop the Tea Party bill.
While Boehner’s decision brings the government ever closer to the brink of government shutdown, it does nothing to increase the odds of defunding the ACA. The basic outlines of a solution are essentially the same: in order to continue funding the government, the speaker will have to eventually bring a clean C.R. to the floor, risking mutiny from House Republicans and possibly the loss of his speakership. Of course, Boehner could easily preserve his position by ignoring the will of the Senate and the majority of Americans. But if current public opinion polling or the 1995 government shutdown are any precedent, this would damage both the economy and his party’s own political prospects.