The Normalization of Government Shutdowns

One unfortunate feature of the current budget standoff  is that Democrats appear to have accepted the idea that threatening or causing a partial government shutdown is a valid tactic. While there are precedents for government shutdowns from the 19th century, the modern use of that plan was initiated by congressional Republicans in 1995. Since then, Democrats have routinely attacked the idea of shutting down the government to achieve some political end as illegitimate.

Not anymore. Sadly, this means that this will became standard operating procedure. Granted, the more partial you make the shutdown the more symbolic it becomes.  I do not understand, for instance, how the national parks can be kept open while the government is closed, as a national park is definitely not an essential service, but there are reports that the Administration may keep them open this time in the event of a shutdown.

Democracy means caring more about the rules than about the partisan results. Alas.

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14 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    Republicans control Congress and the presidency.

    They are the ones ultimately “causing” things here.

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      So, your position is that Republicans will cause the government to shut down by voting to keep it open? Because they don’t add an extraneous provision to the law doing that under the threat of a Democratic filibuster?

      Do Senate Democrats lack agency, such that their vote to shut down the government has to be attributed to Republicans?

      • Joe says:

        I think Josh Marshall’s discussion at Talking Points Memo is overall convincing.

        Part of the analysis notes: ” The Democrats want two things: a resolution of the Dreamers issue and a reinstatement of CHIP. ” CHIP is being used by Republicans as a hostage device. Yes, they are to blame there. There is a majority agreement it is not “extraneous.”

        It is a basic thing and funding it is not trivial. The other issue isn’t “extraneous” either. And, Republicans, being in control, do have ultimate responsibility for not addressing the issue.

        As noted by the article, Republicans as a whole also have major responsibility in setting up the general concept, moving past having specific responsibility in both cases (especially the first) here. Ultimately, the buck does stop with those in control of the government. Why the minority party as such is “causing” something here is unclear to me — at bare minimum both sides have a role. If the professor wants to cry Cassandra tears, the blame at the very least should be spread around.

        • Brett Bellmore says:

          That’s the point: The Democrats want a new law. A law which had previously been proposed and defeated. And they will filibuster the bill keeping the government from shutting down if they do not get it. DACA is absolutely extraneous.

          If the situation were flipped, a Democratic House, Senate, and President, and the Republicans were filibustering the funding bill unless the Democrats agreed to add a wall along our border with Mexico, there’s not a chance in the world you’d be saying that the Democrats were shutting down the government.

          The usual rule applies here: No matter the situation, a shut down will be attributed to the Republicans. But I don’t think that spin is going to work this time.

          • Joe says:

            CHIP is not a “new law.” It is a law that is widely seen not as “extraneous” but something that needs to be part of a spending bill.

            Since you don’t even mention this, skipping to DACA, I find your response spin. It skips over a key matter that is agreed upon by both sides & Republicans very well have agency here. If one wants to assign blame, at the very least it has to be shared. And, overall one side, the one in power, has more of it.

            The DACA part is something that is seen as very important and there was efforts to formulate a compromise. Some Republicans supported the compromise and Trump ran on making deals. It is not some trivial matter and is relevant as to spending (if less so than CHIP). Since Republicans are in control, yes, ultimately the buck stops with them. Again, if nothing else, BOTH sides are involved, not merely “Democrats.”

            The “usual rule” for you is to assign blame to Democrats or “the Left” while occasionally making noises about some general discontent. This isn’t surprising since you have said you were a “conservative” but the point holds. I expect somewhat more from the professor here.

            • Joe says:

              tl;dr — I hold to thinking Josh Marshall’s analysis works.

              Republicans have been assigned blame much more in this context for cause and the article spends time discussing details there.

            • Brett Bellmore says:

              Perhaps I didn’t mention CHIP because I agree that it isn’t new law, so it wasn’t relevant to my comment, that the Democrats were demanding a new law in return for not shutting down the government?

              And if the Republicans were in sufficient control for responsibility for a shutdown to be solely theirs, the Democrats wouldn’t have had the power to shut things down.

              This is like wrestling the steering wheel from the driver of a car, and running the car off the road, and then insisting that it was the driver’s fault, because they were in control of the car. It’s the Democrats responsibility, because they caused it to happen!

              95% of Republicans voted to keep the government running, 95% of Democrats to shut it down. Own it.

  2. Brett Bellmore says:

    “I do not understand, for instance, how the national parks can be kept open while the government is closed, as a national park is definitely not an essential service, “

    Perhaps the question, instead, is how closing national parks could possibly be an essential service. Since it actually requires extra work to close them, and the essential services at the parks are frequently provided by private companies which are self financed by fees.

  3. In what bizarro world is the shutdown the Democrats fault? Do they control the White House, Senate, and House? Did they use both 2017 and 2018 reconciliation opportunities on trying to repeal Obamacare and giving tax breaks to rich people? Did the Democrats negotiate a DACA deal and then break it in bad faith?

    Fortunately, significant pluralities of the American people know full well who is responsible — solely responsible — for this shutdown.

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      In the bizarro world where the government is only shutting down because Democrats filibustered the bill keeping it open. That’s the bizzaro world in question.

      • Ah, yes — the “Democrats should do precisely the opposite of what the Republicans did to Obama for eight years” schtick. Fortunately, the American people aren’t dumb enough to buy that ridiculous spin. When asked who is responsible for the shutdown:

        ABC/Washington Post:
        Trump & GOP: 48
        Democrats: 28

        CNN:
        Trump or GOP: 47
        Democrats: 31

        Quinnipiac:

        Trump or GOP: 53
        Democrats: 34

        • Joe says:

          Public reaction only takes us so far though I agree with your overall opinion.

          I’m not going to belabor my comments above and hold to them. My other thought was that the Republicans specifically acting here in such a way is not inherently bad. The professor seems to think so, but others think Republicans who threatened to shut down the government in the past & so forth were doing good work. Ditto some special things Trump is doing. It is notable to me though at times when this is challenged on normative grounds, suddenly we are told “both sides do it.”

          One side is supported more for doing something that is challenged but when it is suddenly argued to be bad, they are downgraded like this. I think people should do more to hold their ground.

  4. Henry says:

    “Democrats appear to have accepted the idea that threatening or causing a partial government shutdown is a valid tactic.”

    It has to be a valid tactic. If it is not, then the party that controls both houses of Congress and the presidency can put literally anything it wants in the budget, even something flagrantly unconstitutional, such as providing that no federal funds may be spent to benefit any African-American person.

  5. Greg says:

    I guess I would want to know why the author considers the “modern” use of shutdowns to have begun in the 1990s and not in, say, the 1970s, when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, and the White House, and when the impetus was Democratic Party ‘s desire to , as Vox put it recently: “loosen restrictions on the use of Medicaid dollars to cover abortions (restrictions known informally as “the Hyde Amendment”), by allowing funding in cases of rape, incest, and when the health of the mother is in danger.” Four shutdowns in four years from 1976-1979 over one issue certain seems like it should be included in modern use of shutdowns.