Should you worry about another government shutdown? Ted Cruz and Mike Lee say no, fight the Export-Import Bank.

Should You Worry About Another Government Shutdown?

Should You Worry About Another Government Shutdown?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 12 2014 11:17 AM

Should You Worry About Another Government Shutdown?

Sen. Ted Cruz fights lameness.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Probably not. (Remember Betteridge's law of headlines!) If the House GOP's agenda had survived the week, there would have been a Thursday vote on a measure to fund the government through Dec. 11—a continuing resolution. Senate Democrats had agreed to this. The last shutdown had been great for their party, producing a one-time polling surge that could not be retained as the Obamacare rollout began. As late as Tuesday, Republicans were ready to go.

And then, later that day, the Obama White House asked that funds to train Syrian forces be superglued into the CR. Even though most Republicans who stated a position were in favor of this, the bill was held. Why? Because there was no real hurry—the CR is not needed until Oct. 1—and because Republican leaders need to put out two small fires. One: The current bill includes funding for the Ex-Im Bank, which was seen as a dead letter after Eric Cantor was primaried, but which aggressive lobbying from business groups (Boeing, but plenty of other groups in the Chamber of Commerce) rescued. Two: a campaign by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee to get the House Republicans to extend the CR's funding from December to early 2015. Their reasoning is simple, and not crazy: "Presumably, a lame-duck session would be used to try to pass partisan, unpopular bills in November or December that might be indefensible before the federal election on November 4th."


The irony, and the reason why a real standoff is unlikely, is that Cruz's interests converage with the Chamber of Commerce's/Boehner's. Even if Democrats defy expectations in two months, they are guaranteed to lose at least three Senate seats and a few more House seats. (I'm assuming, say, that West Virginia's Republican candidate for Senate, Shelley Moore Capito, will not suddenly decide to quote from Todd Akin's memoir while personally closing down a coal mine. The frontrunners should remain the frontrunners.) Republicans increasingly believe that they'll win the Senate outright. In any scenario, they're in a stronger negotiating position in 2015. Just as the Ex-Im compromise allows a 2015 fight over the bank, a longer CR would allow the next Congress to kick off with a spending fight against a weakened, lame-duck president.

If Republicans worried about losing clout in the next Congress, they might scrap over what to win this month. But they're not worried. Just as the party avoided turmoil before the 2012 election, when a Romney win looked possible, they're trying to do no harm until all those new red-state senators arrive.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.