As oddmakers set the chances of a government shut down at above 60 percent, it’s useful to go back and remember how we got into this mess, with important services closed and soldiers perhaps not getting paid. Here’s how we got into this mess: Republican leaders didn’t keep their word.
Way back in February, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (now being widely praised for his “courageous” budget proposal for next year) proposed $32 billion in budget cuts for the rest of this fiscal year. Given Ryan’s position in the Republican constellation of stars, it was perfectly reasonable for Democrats to assume that was the number they were to hit.
So they did. They immediately capitulated and gave Republicans $33 billion in cuts. So, did the GOP declare victory? Did they know how to take “yes” for an answer? No, they didn’t.
Under severe pressure from the hyper-conservative Republican Study Committee and tea party activists, Ryan and Boehner reneged and demanded more. Dems said, “No way.”
And it wasn’t just more money that Republicans insisted on. They also want to move through any number of hoary old rightwing proposals that have nothing to do with the budget, such as neutering the Environmental Protection Agency.
As former Bush speechwriter Micheal Gerson put it,
The less-than-serious faction of the Republican Party is intent on squeezing more savings out of the 2011 budget or pursuing a government shutdown as an end in itself. Some of this bloc is composed of House freshmen, who share the unrealistic expectations of the Tea Party base — the undoing of modern government by one-half of one branch of that government. Others are more senior members of the Republican caucus — representatives such as Mike Pence and Michele Bachmann — who seek to raise their profiles by establishing themselves as rebel leaders.
Some Democrats have said that the tea party is to blame if the government is shut down. That’s not quite true. It’s the entire far right wing of the Republican Party.