Who's Afraid of a Government Shutdown?

Posted: Apr 01, 2011 3:52 PM
Earlier in the week, we discovered that former DNC Chair Howard Dean is rooting for a government shutdown based on the premise it would benefit Democrats politically.  But would it, really?  Governor Dean might want to re-examine his political calculus:

A majority of voters are fine with a partial shutdown of the federal government if that’s what it takes to get deeper cuts in federal government spending.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters think making deeper spending cuts in the federal budget for 2011 is more important than avoiding a partial government shutdown. Thirty-one percent (31%) disagree and say avoiding a shutdown is more important.  Still, a plurality (44%) of voters thinks a partial shutdown of the federal government would be bad for the economy...

Partial is an operative word in this debate.   Last month the Associated Press spilled the dirty little secret about what a "shutdown" would actual entail:

Social Security checks would still go out. Troops would remain at their posts. Furloughed federal workers probably would get paid, though not until later. And virtually every essential government agency, like the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, would remain open.

That's the little-known truth about a government shutdown. The government doesn't shut down.

(Best line of the story):

The Capitol would remain open, however. Congress is deemed essential, despite its abysmal poll ratings.

None of this is to suggest that a shutdown is preferable.  Indeed, House Republicans have already acted three times to avoid that fate, and are now pushing a fourth bill aptly titled the "Government Shutdown Prevention Act."  In some ways, it would benefit Republicans to strike a compromise with Democrats on the 2011 CR -- not only for the reasons discussed by Sen. Marco Rubio and Rich Lowry, but because it would bring closure to this relatively low-stakes fight.  This, in turn, would allow the GOP to focus its political juice on the looming, uber-high-stakes debt ceiling and 2012 budget slug-fests. 

But if Democratic intransigence on certain appealing "riders" to the H.R. 1 (defunding Planned Parenthood, EPA, Obamacare, etc.) proves intolerable, Republicans can take comfort in the facts that, according to this latest public opinion survey, the American people strongly support deeper spending cuts, and would be willing to accept a partial shutdown to achieve that goal.  Your move, Harry Reid.