Is a Government Shutdown Looming, Really?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Authorities attempt to eject protestors from Wisconsin. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Taegan Goddard, the creator of CQ Roll Call's Political Wire, discussed the possibility that the budget dispute will result in a shutown of government services.

Over the past couple of weeks, Wisconsin unions and their supporters have been fighting against Governor Walker's budget proposals, and in Washington, Democrats and Republicans are arguing over the budget too. By this Friday, Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep money flowing during the current fiscal year. Without it, the federal government could shut down.

According to Taegan Goddard, a shutdown would mostly cause "inconveniences" for folks — checks may arrive late, passport applications may slow down— but there's never been a shutdown that's lasted long enough to really know what could happen, he said.

But it may be avoided altogether. House Republicans have offered a short-term compromise — $4 billion in cuts in exchange for a two week budget extension. Goddard said this hasn't averted the potential of a shutdown, but it will at least cause a delay.

What you have is a situation politically where both sides have really blinked here. You've got the Democrats agreeing to the $4 billion in cuts that the Republicans have proposed, but actually when you look at the numbers, the Republicans have essentially agreed to cuts that President Obama already proposed in his budget...several weeks ago, so you've got a situation where both sides are kind of posturing...There's a lot of weariness over who might be blamed politically for a government shutdown.

Despite the weariness, House Speaker Boehner was cool and collected as he spoke to the National Religious Broadcasters on Sunday about the budget and the potential of a shutdown:

They won't eat the whole loaf at one time, we'll make them eat it one slice at a time. The American people want government to stay open, but they want it to spend less money and we don't need to shut down the government to accomplish that. we just need to do what the American people are asking of us.

Even though both sides have "blinked" in the short term, Goddard said, he said, Boehner's right — Republicans have won the debate on cutting spending.

Really it's just a matter of how much spending are we going to cut. The onus now is on Democrats to come up with that number and to figure out what is acceptable. So I think that this initial deal is just more indication that that first slice that has been agreed to...and the Republicans do have this edge.

There's something else driving this edge, Goddard said.

There are a handful of moderate Democrats in the Senate who are up for reelection in 2012 and who really, in many ways, side with the idea that government spending has run out of control and that the deficit is an increasing problem and that their reelection chances are hinged to showing some progress on that.

But either way, he said these budget battles (including the one in Wisconsin) are all political positioning.

In reality, the entire showdown that we're seeing in Wisconsin and that we're seeing to a lesser degree in other states, or at least a less visible degree in other states, this is all about politics. This is all about who has the upper hand in these elections, and certainly in the elections coming up in 2012. If Republicans looked back at the 2010 elections, as well as they did across the country, they believe that there are six to eight governorships they should have won and the reason they didn't win those was that the unions are very effective at spending for Democrats and getting out the vote for Democrats and so this is an opportunity, at least politically, for Republicans to try to hurt the Democrats awakens Democrats, recognizing that this is a constituency they need to support and maintain.

And it's the same thing we're seeing in Washington, Goddard said.

When you look at the federal level we're talking about really a minor, minor slice of the budget here. This is not about the federal budget deficit. This is about political posturing as we head into 2012.



More in:

Comments [8]

Mark Brown from

Hey... If you really want to see interesting stuff,
I have a 'top 10' list of HOW to get out of this (depression 2.0).

Go look at my blog...

Feb. 28 2011 11:25 AM
Mad as Hell

The next time a Washington cocktail type helpfully explains that "entitlements" are the root source of all our troubles, what would it take for Brian to point out the truth? Not every time, but say once out of every 1000 times?

For example, Brian could point out that 1) most so-called "entitlements" have already been paid for by their future recipients, in the form of past taxes, and that cutting these benefits is breach of contract, if not downright theft Remember when we were told that investment bank bonuses couldn't be cut, because they were entitled to that money by law?

More vitally, Brian could point out that 2) "entitlement spending" is really a code word for "U.S. medical spending" -- a code word typically used by people who are unwilling to socialize the American medical system, so that our costs are more in line with the rest of the world (including countries with higher costs of living than ours).

If, for example, we spent what they spend in Finland per capita (remember, when all our reporters all ran to Finland to discover their education secrets?), our current deficit would be zero -- AND we'd cover everyone.

But no -- the only solution in the U.S.A., according to the Washington cocktail circuit, is to make the poor and middle-class more miserable, since private enterprise and the insurance industry are holy.

How much of this nonsense do we need to hear on WNYC, before someone speaks up?

Feb. 28 2011 10:34 AM

will red state tea baggers cut socialist farm subsidies?

Feb. 28 2011 10:23 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

I second Mark Brown's assertion that people care mainly about the economoy and having a job, NOT the debt/deficit.

The problem is that the Republicans are louder and are winning the message on the "debt as morality" play, even as they immorally undercut those who need help most.

Feb. 28 2011 10:22 AM

Less government spending now continues Depression 2.0 !!!

Your guest is stuck in DC amber.

The deficit is manageable once we start generating jobs instead of allowing the GOP to kill them.

Feb. 28 2011 10:20 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

No politicians/officials in the Federal govt. will "win" politically if a shutdown occurs. Gingrich does not currently have any skin in the game so he can spout off as he has been doing since his departure from Congress.

Fair enough on a Republicans win on the message of cutting discretionary spending as a symbolic and ideology event (primarily the latter), since everyone knows that only addressing "entitlements" matters and the the Republicans fixation on discretionary spending means nothing in the long term.

Feb. 28 2011 10:19 AM
Mark Brown from

It's the ECONOMY stupid. I agree with this person.

It's NOT the deficit. It's DEPRESSION 2.0.

Just like the 'war to end all wars (aka the GREAT war) became WW I AFTER the 2nd war, we are CURRENTLY in depression 2.0
NO MATTER what the republicans say...

We need MORE and MORE MASSIVE spending for us to get the STATES out of these massive spending cuts and make EVERYONE work again

(and I said this in 2008 BRIAN!.. check my blog!0

Feb. 28 2011 10:17 AM
Jay from Norwalk

What about taxes; filing, payment and refunds?

Feb. 28 2011 10:10 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by