This October, which marks the beginning of the new fiscal year, congressional Republicans and Democrats will assemble in order to perform one of the legislative branch’s most fundamental responsibilities: appropriate necessary funds to operate the government. This process has grown to be much more robust than it was 226 years ago, and the federal budget has grown to be much more convoluted. It’s gotten to the point that Congress no longer expects itself to necessarily meet this responsibility and, now, leaders of both parties are threatening to abandon the responsibility altogether in order to pursue political initiatives.
Amongst the innumerable complexities in the budget, Republicans and Democrats are both focused primarily on the budget’s pertinence to Obamacare and sequestration. Republicans see the new budget as a chance to defund and thus defeat Obamacare, which Democrats will obviously not accept, and Democrats see the new budget as a chance to repeal the sequester’s automatic spending cuts, which likewise Republicans will obviously not accept.
Anticipating an unresolvable battle over these two issues that have largely consumed the national political dynamic over the past few years, both parties warn that a government shutdown might ensue.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a prominent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, rationalizes his willingness to starve the government: "If you pay for a budget that pays for Obamacare ... you have voted for Obamacare. Some will say, 'That is crazy. You are going to shut down the government over Obamacare.' No. What is crazy is moving forward with this."
Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf has revealed that Democrats are equally willing to shut down the government in order to achieve political motives. He argues that “If we just let [sequestration] keep happening without having a confrontation about it we're losing. And Sept. 30 becomes a place to have a confrontation about it."
While there are clearly stalwarts on each side, it is unlikely that the government will ultimately shut down.
These threats and circumstances have arisen multiple times throughout the Obama administration and no lasting government shutdown has ever materialized. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney seems confident that the government will stave off such a dramatic measure, and he warns that “The American people will not look kindly upon action taken here in Washington to shut down the government.”
There are other Republicans, too, who are unwilling to shut down the government for political gains. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) opposes the members of his party who willingly threaten to defund the government, claiming that it is a short term approach that will cause more inconvenience than benefit. He frankly insists: "I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard. At some point, you're going to open the federal government back up, and Barack Obama's going to be president, and he won't have signed a dissolution of the Affordable Care Act."
The fact that there are people on both sides of the aisle threatening to accept a shutdown, means a shutdown becomes all the less likely — that would mean that each side would be giving the other side what they want. A deal will need to be made, Republicans will not likely defund Obamacare, Democrats will not likely repeal the sequester's spending cuts, and the political landscape will remain hostile and polarized.