A provocative argument has been making the rounds over the last couple of weeks about whether a government shutdown decreases the likelihood of a debt-ceiling crisis. We're about to find out whether the idea has merit.
As best as I can tell, Noam Schieber was the first to push the argument in earnest, making the case that if Republicans shut down the government, they won't be able to turn around 17 days later and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States. Soon after, Josh Green and Ezra Klein picked up on the thesis, as did MSNBC's own Chris Hayes.
In general, the pitch has quite a bit of appeal. Unhinged, far-right congressional Republicans have an itch, the argument goes, and it needs to be scratched -- these folks want and need a crisis to satisfy some unsettling part of their anti-government worldview, and if we have to choose, shutting down the government is far less serious than piercing the debt ceiling. It's not all a good thing that Republicans have shut down the government, but if this means they've gotten something out of their system, then perhaps we'll all be better off in the long run.
To be sure, it's compelling, and I sincerely hope it proves to be correct. But like Molly Ball, I'm not sure one crisis prevents the other.
The majority of House Republicans already want to prevent a shutdown and a default. But there's a small group that insists on defunding Obamacare as an ultimatum, and they are not likely to be placated by a little government shutdown. Many believe that the government shutdown of 1995 either didn't hurt Republicans politically or only hurt Republicans because they gave in rather than standing firm. [...]The idea that a shutdown will somehow convert these holdouts is a version of the "break the fever" theory that Obama espoused during his campaign: that once he was reelected, antagonistic Republicans would see which side the public was on and agree to compromise. That didn't happen; if anything, they redoubled their efforts to thwart him, egged on by outside groups.
We'll see soon enough whether this current crisis is merely an appetizer for the real crisis in two weeks, or whether GOP extremists are not satiated for a while. But as a general rule, if you're thinking, under any circumstances, "Now that x has happened, maybe now congressional Republicans will start acting like reasonable adults," it's best to prepare for profound disappointment.