It sounds harsh and cruel, but U.S. House Speaker John Boehner's threat to shut down all but essential federal government services if the Democrats on Capitol Hill can't actually reign in spending is not only the fiscally responsible approach, it is also one that would be popular with the public.
Enough with the gamesmanship of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the silliness of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. It's time for Republicans to let America know that the GOP means business -- cut the budget deeply, or shut her down!
In January, InsiderAdvantage conducted a national survey of voters who identified themselves as either Republicans or independent voters. Those two demographic segments make up the majority of the nation's current electorate. In the survey, we recited in a very straightforward manner the shutdown of government that House Republicans imposed in November 1995 and then again from Dec. 16, 1995, until Jan. 6, 1996.
Then we asked, "What is your opinion of the actions the Republican-led majority took in temporarily shutting down nonessential services for short periods of time to, in the words of their leader, 'prove to the president we were serious about a balanced budget?'" Seventy-one percent had a favorable opinion of that shutdown, and 59 percent said they had a "very favorable" opinion of it. (We polled more than 1,000 respondents, for a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.)
Boehner has been portrayed as a middle-of-the-road, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat speaker. It's said that he is trying to hold together a fractious GOP conference of House members. That is a typical Washington, inside-the-Beltway attempt to oversimplify both a man and his party.
Here's the truth: Republicans know darn well that they must put their money -- or the lack thereof -- where their mounts were last November. That means they must back up their campaign promises then with meaty budget cuts now. And no, the White House's proposal of a largely symbolic freeze on new (and higher) spending won't suffice.
A genuine, GOP-backed shutdown would most likely happen if the House refused to pass a continuing resolution for the long-suffering budget that was to be passed last year; or if there was an effort to sustain spending at its current, bloated levels.
That would mean that in early March, the federal government would no longer have funding. What a wonderful, liberating feeling that would be! Imagine a week or two of no federal government -- save the military and other essential services. No mindless work at the Department of Education. No new administrative edicts at the Environmental Protection Agency. The list could go on and on.
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