It's been about 16 years since the congressional Republicans forced a government shutdown, and since the last ordeal was considered a political fiasco for the GOP, policymakers have generally been eager to avoid another one.
That said, attitudes appear to be shifting. In the last Congress, Republican leaders threatened a series of shutdowns -- none of which happened, though they came close -- and as the new Congress gets underway, some GOP lawmakers appear to be rooting for another.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) appeared on CBS' "Face The Nation" on Sunday, voicing firm support for a suspension of government services. He cited 1995's federal stoppage, pegging that event as the "impetus" for "some real serious compromise." [...]Host Bob Schieffer responded: "You think that's a good idea?"Salmon did not budge, replying "Yes, I do.""You really do?," Schieffer asked, prompting Salmon to add that he thinks "it's about time" for the shutdown to happen.
Around the same time yesterday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich boasted, "I helped close the government twice. It actually worked."
Yesterday's comments come on the heels of similar remarks from a variety of other Republican officeholders. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) argued last week that a government shutdown "may be necessary"'; Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told MSNBC last week that the GOP needed "to be willing to tolerate" the possibility of a shutdown; and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) hopes to sell the idea that a shutdown would produce great resulst. "I think the last time we saw a shutdown, the fact that Republicans were willing to stand together -- on fiscally conservative principles -- ended up producing a result that was responsible and that benefited the country and that ultimately produced enormous economic growth," Cruz said last week.
And how, pray tell, does the GOP intend to force this result? That's unclear.
By some accounts, it appears that Republicans, including Cornyn, believe the desirable -- or at a minimum, tolerable -- shutdown is the natural result of a debt-ceiling crisis. If that is the GOP strategy, it's important to note how crazy this is.
It's true that if Congress refuses to allow the country to pay the bills for money that's already been spent, much of the government will have to be shut down. But really, that would be just one of many problems associated with a national default and a deliberate decision to trash the full faith and credit of the United States.
If Republicans think it'd be a lot of fun to shut down the government, and are looking for an opportunity to do so, the preferable move would be to force a budget fight, not a debt-limit fight. They're both dangerous moves, but the results of the latter would be far more catastrophic.