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Republicans start making plans for more government shutdowns

Americans haven’t had to think much about government shutdowns lately, but the self-imposed crises are effectively becoming part of the GOP platform.


With Election Day four weeks from tomorrow, Republicans aren’t just optimistic about their electoral prospects, key GOP officials and candidates are already making plans about what they might be able to do with power — assuming that voters reward the party with control of one or both chambers on Capitol Hill.

Voters hoping for legislative progress should lower their expectations: Republicans aren’t thinking about governing, per se. Rather, GOP leaders are likely to focus on gridlock, impeachment crusades, and extensive hearings into assorted conspiracy theories.

But in terms of the party’s to-do list, let’s not brush past the fact that Republicans are already eyeing another round of government shutdowns. The conservative Washington Times reported this morning:

Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters said if Arizona voters elect him, he is prepared to shut down the government to force President Biden to reverse course on his border policies. “I’m willing to go there,” Mr. Masters told The Washington Times in an exclusive interview. ... “By exercising that leverage, I think we will win,” Mr. Masters said. “I think he will capitulate.”

The article didn’t specify which border policies the young, far-right Senate candidate hopes to reverse. But the bottom line was clear: If the White House doesn’t adopt border policies in line with Masters’ wishes, he’ll push for a government shutdown until the president gives in.

Republicans, the Arizonan added, should be willing to “play hardball.” In this case, “hardball” would apparently mean the first government shutdown since 2019.

On the surface, it might be easy to dismiss Masters’ posturing — he is, after all, just one Senate candidate, and polls show him trailing incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly — but he’s not alone in making comments like these.

Last month, for example, The Wall Street Journal reported that Republican Rep. Chip Roy “wants to see his party willing to shut down the government to remove funds for policies that Republicans don’t support.”

The Texan added, “I’ve never once seen us lose political strength with a shutdown fight.” He made related comments on Fox News a month earlier, pushing for GOP leaders to shut down the government on the first day of the next Congress.

Around the same time, Sen. Rick Scott — a member of the Senate Republican leadership — made related remarks in the context of the Inflation Reduction Act. Politico reported that the Floridian “suggested that the GOP could shut down the government next year if it retakes the chamber’s majority — unless President Joe Biden walks back components of his signature climate change, tax and health care legislation.”

As Scott sees it, Republicans would pass a spending package through the budget reconciliation process, undo the Democratic achievements, and tell the president to either sign it or allow the GOP to shut down the government.

The article added, “Even if Republicans do exceedingly well in the midterms, it won’t be enough to overcome a Biden veto of efforts to undo his marquee domestic policy achievement. But Scott’s threat only raises the odds of a government shutdown showdown in the early months of a new Congress.”

Since Donald Trump’s 35-day shutdown ended in January 2019, Americans haven’t had to think much about these self-imposed crises. As the midterm elections near, however, shutdowns are effectively becoming part of the GOP platform.