Last week, as outlandish as it sounds, some prominent House Republicans suggested they're taking "a serious look
" at shutting down part of the federal government in the fall. The White House and Senate Democrats are taking the rhetoric seriously enough to start delivering a stern reply: don't even think about it.
The issue in this case has nothing to do with "Obamacare," spending cuts, the national debt, or entitlements, but rather, climate change. Some GOP lawmakers want to add provisions to an appropriations bill that would kill the Environmental Protection Agency's new measures to regulate carbon pollution. The idea, of course, would be to create a showdown: either Democrats pass the spending bill that blocks President Obama's climate agenda or the spending bill dies and part of the government shuts down a month before Election Day.
The White House fired a warning shot to Republican senators on Wednesday after several of them expressed interest in using a must-pass government funding bill to block the Obama administration's environmental regulations. "If Republicans want to repeat their government shutdown play to protect the profits of big polluters, they're placing a pretty risky bet," a White House official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter on the record, told TPM.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Monday accused Republicans of inviting the prospect of another partial shutdown of the federal government by pushing to attach anti-environment, pro-coal measures to appropriations legislation. "We've had enough sequestrations and government shutdowns that I hope my Republican colleagues aren't headed in that direction again, given the importance of appropriations legislation and the need to keep our government operating," he said on the Senate floor.
So what happens now?
In a twist that would be amusing if it weren't so absurd, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who's helped lead filibusters on everything that moves in the chamber, demanded that the anti-climate amendment receive an up-or-down vote
, decided on a simple majority. In other words, Democratic priorities would need 60 votes to advance, but for McConnell, the anti-EPA provision should be added to the spending bill with 51 votes.
Reid, not surprisingly, balked, pulling the bill and delaying consideration.
This could go on for a while. If there's no resolution by the end of September, the part of the government that funds the EPA would shut its doors. Republicans may find that appealing in the abstract, but keep in mind
this is the same spending bill that funds national parks and monuments.
It's a little early to start laying odds, though the idea that Republicans would cause even a partial shutdown so close to the election is hard to believe, especially since polls show the public siding heavily with Democrats on combatting climate change. That said, there's a very real possibility that GOP lawmakers could kick the can down the road a bit and pursue a lame-duck shutdown
after the election.
Watch this space.