Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Government Shutdown is a Loser: Wise to End It

Both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner knew a government shutdown over Obamacare was a political loser in 2013, but House Republicans and a handful of senate advocates managed to force a partial shutdown of the government starting October 1.

Senator Ted Cruz, who had mounted a 21-hour filibuster in late September, was adamant and frenzied at the start. But the media coverage featured daily laments of seniors and veterans turned away from the Washington monuments and national parks being closed. The collapse of the Republican hardliners came on October 10 when a Wall Street Journal poll showed what most observers and certainly the entire Washington establishment believed – the public was rejecting the strategy in droves. They did not like the shutdown, they did not approve it as a strategy to defund Obamacare and they blamed the Republicans for it, not the President or Democrats.

And the signs were not good for Mr. Cruz and his House allies this time either. A new Pew Research poll shows, in spite of the controversy surrounding the Planned Parenthood videos, the organization maintains considerable popularity. Sixty percent of Americans want funding continued, and if the government shuts down, blame will accrue to Republicans by nearly two-to-one (40% Republicans vs. 26% Democrats) (new poll Sept. 27, 1,505 adults).

The dilemma for Hill Republicans is that their partisan constituents are strongly against Planned Parenthood funding (66% against funding), but they lose the public in general because even more Democrats favor funding (83% favor funding) and Planned Parenthood funding is winning independents by nearly two-thirds (64% of independents).

Also, this poll shows Republicans are internally divided with conservative Republicans – 78 percent against funding – but among moderate to liberal Republicans, only 39 percent are in favor of eliminating funding.

As the two polls made clear, this shutdown scenario looks much like October 2013. Pew Research, joined by a new CBS News/New York Times poll, show nearly the same percentage of Americans who were more likely to blame Republicans in 2013 will be blaming Republicans today. Leadership and rank and file were smart to end shutdown strategy.

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