Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GOP Shutdown Fever

Sahil Kapur lists factors working toward a GOP government shutdown on Talking Points Memo.

The specter of President Barack Obama using his executive authority to temporarily shield as many as 5 million Americans from the threat of deportation has ignited a strong backlash from the GOP's tea party wing. Seeing no better option to stop Obama, these conservatives, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and 59 House Republicans, are pushing for a head-on confrontation that would end in a government shutdown unless he backs down.

The GOP was hardest hit by the 2013 shutdown, which also ended with them backing down and funding Obamacare along with the rest of the federal government. The GOP's approval rating plunged by 10 points to a record low, and it took about a year for them to recover the losses, according to Gallup surveys. So, why are conservatives returning to the precipice once again?

The Republican base is hungry for confrontation with Obama. A Pew poll released last week found that 66 percent of Republicans want leaders to "stand up" to Obama, "even if less gets done in Washington"; just 32 percent said the party should "work with Obama" even if it disappoints some GOP supporters. The party's desire for confrontation is slightly higher than it was in 2010.

Many Republican voters see illegal immigration as an existential threat to the U.S. Immigration and Obamacare trigger similarly profound anxieties among the tea party base. Both are seen as defining battles for the soul of the country, according to an extensive 2013 study by Democracy Corps. The study said these Republicans believe Obama wants to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants in order to create a larger base for the Democratic Party and throw conservatism into the dustbin of American history.

Republican leaders tend to stoke the GOP base's anger for their political benefit, but it sometimes turns against them. In the run-up to the 2013 shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner had spent years fanning the flames of dissent against Obamacare, which included dozens of repeal votes in the House and frequent expressions of outrage labeling it an unconstitutional law that will ruin the country's health care system. Then, when the tea party pushed him to take extraordinary measures in 2013 to stop it, he told them it wasn't worth it. But that rang hollow to them and so they turned their anger against Republican leadership. It was put-up-or-shut-up time, and Boehner was forced to put up.

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