The Republican Party in the House of Representatives recently voted through a measure to continue funding the government into the new fiscal year with the stipulation that the onset of The Affordable Care Act be delayed for one year. The current bill also includes the repeal of taxes on medical devices. Before passage of this bill, the Republicans’ position was to defund the Affordable Care Act completely. This is the 43rd attempt on the part of the House Republicans to overturn or obstruct the Affordable Care Act in some way. As time wanes towards a government shutdown, the Republican Party will have little choice but to cave on this budget battle.
The last time a government shutdown occurred was in 1996. The shutdowns in the 1990’s ended up costing taxpayers $1.4 billion due to the inefficiencies of closing down and restarting government operations. Voters overwhelmingly blamed the Republican Party for the shutdown. At the time, polls indicated that 51% of voters blamed Republicans versus 28% who blamed Bill Clinton. As a result, the GOP lost eight seats in the House during the 1996 election.
The House Republicans are already being admonished by their GOP colleagues in the Senate for tactics that are unlikely to gain traction with the Democratic majority in the Senate or, perhaps more importantly, with voters. Senator Susan Collins (R-MN) has criticized her House counterparts saying that their latest actions constituted “a strategy that cannot possibly work.” Insurmountable pressure is building on the House Republicans to cave in their resolve to battle the Democrats over the budget measures.
Democrats in the Senate can defeat the most recent Republican House bill with a simple majority. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) can take the bill approved by the House and strip the provisions the Republicans added out of the bill. As long as Senate Democrats have a majority vote for the resulting “clean” bill, they can send the bill right back to the House for another vote. This would force House Republicans to either vote for the clean bill themselves, vote for yet another unpalatable version of the bill hours before a government shutdown occurs, or simply do nothing and allow the shutdown to happen.
Cynical voters are unlikely to see the latest delaying tactics by Republicans as anything more than partisan politics at its worst. A poll done by the CBS News/New York Times indicates that 44% of Americans will blame the Republican Party for a federal government shutdown versus only 35% who say they would blame Obama and congressional Democrats.
This kind of uncompromising, ideological posturing cost the Republicans votes in 2012 and contributed to the eight seat loss they sustained in the House. For every seat lost by Republicans, their Democratic opponents gained a seat. Republican strategists must be aware that any voter ill will incurred by a shutdown has the potential to accelerate the losses sustained in 2012 into the upcoming 2014 elections, potentially placing their House majority at risk.
The House Republicans will cave on the budget. The only question is whether or not they will do it after a shutdown takes place, allowing voter dissatisfaction to mount even more, or if they will compromise by tomorrow’s deadline to avert a shutdown. Even if the GOP does dig their heels in and the government shuts down, they will back off once everyone throws the blame at them in the aftermath.
Written By: Danyelle C. Overbo