Shutdown solution is so close, so far away


    The numbers tell the tale. House Speaker John Boehner can shed his shackles any time he wants, and stage a vote to reopen the government. If he were to do that, the measure would pass. A huge share of the Republicans – quite possibly a majority – would join virtually all 200 Democrats to swiftly halt this farcical shutdown. The tyranny of the extremists would be broken in a heartbeat.

    But don’t take my word for it. Conservative reporter Byron York, who’s plugged into the House GOP, lays out the math: “There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing and perhaps eager to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare.” (That’s known in the trade as a clean CR.) And Robert Costa, a reporter with conservative magazine creds and great House sources, basically agrees, even while lowballing the tally of sane souls. He says that “potentially more than 100 House Republicans” would vote right now to expunge the kill-Obamacare fantasy and end the shutdown.

    One likely expunger is Mike Rogers of Michigan, who told the Detroit paper yesterday, “We should be able to govern when we get (to Washington). Chaos is not governing.” He’s not happy about putting so many federal workers on unpaid furlough: “I just don’t believe it’s right for us to gamble with other people’s money. We’ve made a statement, for sure. But are we in the best position to win the fight?”

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    Rogers hasn’t officially said that he’d vote to end the shutdown – but at least 20 of his colleagues are already on record saying that it’s time to get real. A quick sampling: Jon Runyan, from South Jersey, says, “Enough is enough. Put a clean (continuing resolution) on the floor, and let’s get on with the business we were sent to do.” Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania says, “I’m prepared to vote for a clean CR.” Mike Simpson of Idaho says, “I’d vote for a clean CR.” Congressman Scott Rigell of Virginia says, “Time for a clean CR.”

    By the way, I dream of marketing a new soap called Clean CR.

    So then what’s the problem? If the shutdown solution is so close, why does it seem so far away? If anywhere from 100 to 175 Republicans are jonesing to stop the madness, how come it’s not happening – like, now?

    Patience, people. When a loon is perched on a window ledge with a gun aimed at his own head, it takes time to talk him down. This is a process. It has to play out.

    A frustrated House Republican told York the other day that the GOP is being held hostage by only “30 idiots.” For now, Boehner is apparently compelled to give those “30 idiots” plenty of rhetorical rope, letting them run the show and wreak short-term economic havoc. Michele Bachmann is a classic case. She’s out there railing about Obamacare like it’s still the spring of 2009: “This isn’t just another bill. This is an extremely consequential bill.” Somebody please tell Michele that it’s not just a “bill” anymore, that it ceased to be a “bill” three years ago; failing that, get her a shrink who specializes in curing clinical denial.

    Even some of Bachmann’s shutdown pals seem to recognize that their crusade is futile. When Raul Labrador of Idaho was asked on Meet the Press whether he’d be willing to vote for a clean CR, he replied: “I am not. But I think there are enough people in the Republican party willing to do that. And I think that is what you are going to see.”

    So when will we see it? Only when Boehner finally unshackles himself and essentially persuades the “30 idiots” (and the extremist media echo chamber) that the chest-beating phase has run its course, that a fight without leverage is unsustainable, that you can’t win at dice if all you keep rolling is snake eyes. Only then can he safely schedule a clean CR vote – presumably after the White House helps his party find a way to save face.

    The pressure to reopen the government will become overwhelming at the point when Republicans (minus the “30 idiots”) recognize the damage they’re doing to the tarnished party brand (yet another new poll, here). Their time window may already be narrowing. As York reports from the inside: “Before October began, Republicans privately expressed the opinion that a shutdown of two or three days would probably be politically acceptable; after that, they said, the repercussions could be quite serious and entirely unpredictable.”

    But until santy prevails, we’ll have to weather the likes of Marlin Stutzman. He’s one of the shutdown 30, a congressman without a clue. Check out this priceless quote, which he gave to a conservative website: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

    I don’t know what that even is…Neither do we, pal. That’s because you and your mates on the window ledge have no leverage and no idea what to do next. Time to come inside.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1


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