Democrats should be popping champagne corks over all the sudden Republican threats of another government shutdown this fall if President Obama acts on his own to overhaul immigration policy.
The current arc of the mid-term campaign narrative suggests that the GOP will narrowly regain control of the Senate for the first time in almost a decade and improve on its majority in the House. University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato’s latest “Crystal Ball” analysis projects a Republican pick-up of four to eight seats – with a GOP Senate gain of six-to-seven seats “the likeliest outcome.”
In short, the Democrats would need a dramatic game change between now and Nov. 4 to prevent the Republicans from gaining the minimum of six seats needed to reclaim control of the Senate -- and elevate Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to the Majority Leader’s post, provided he wins his own reelection campaign.
Nothing short of another political train wreck similar to last fall’s government shutdown or the 2011 near default on U.S. debt would likely keep the Republicans from achieving a goal that eluded them during the past two elections.
“Blame would probably fall more on Republicans for a shutdown, even if Obama’s immigration maneuvers are the spark to light the fuse that closes down government,” Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of the “Sabato Crystal Ball,” told The Fiscal Times on Thursday. “House Republicans are going to be the main actors in such a scenario, and a shutdown could very well hurt the GOP in November.”
Enter Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and McConnell who are fanning speculation that congressional Republicans may be willing to risk another government shutdown to thwart Obama’s unilateral executive action this fall that conceivably would allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country indefinitely without fear of arrest or deportation. Obama also is considering proposals that would furnish hundreds of thousands of green cards for high-tech workers and relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, according to The Washington Post.
King, one of the shrillest and most unyielding foes of immigration reform, says that a government shutdown is highly possible. The Iowa Republican and tea party adherent predicted that many House Republicans would oppose new spending measures if Obama moves ahead with his unilateral immigration reform measures. “I don’t see how we could reach agreement if he takes that posture,” King told The Post. “It would throw us into a constitutional crisis.”
McConnell, meanwhile, has repeatedly threatened to use amendments to must-pass spending bills to block Obama initiatives on immigration, environmental regulations affecting the coal industry, health care and others as he battles Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes for another term in the Senate.
As The Post noted, “A conservative uprising against the administration would pose little risk” for entrenched Republicans in the House, yet “any move toward impeachment hearings against Obama or another government shutdown would cause serious problems for Republicans in key Senate races.”
Some Democrats are worried about adverse political fallout from Obama granting wholesale amnesty to many of the 11 million illegal immigrant living in this country. A half-dozen incumbent Democratic senators, including Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, are battling for reelection in races largely deemed “tossups.”
However, many of these Democrats have routinely distanced themselves from the president and his policies, and nothing would prevent them from voicing outrage or opposition to his newest immigration policies.
By contrast, another government shutdown fueled by Republican opposition to a new round of controversial executive orders could prove highly toxic to the GOP’s prospects this fall. Whether fair or not, the public has generally blamed the GOP more than the Democrats for past shutdowns dating back to the two shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996 when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich clashed with President Bill Clinton over the budget.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll last October found that the budget confrontation that led to a partial, 16-day government shutdown “dealt a major blow to the GOP’s image and has exposed significant divisions between tea party supporters and other Republicans,” according to a Post summary of the findings. In the aftermath of the shutdown that led to many government furloughs and disruptions of government services, “eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown,” the survey found.
“If another shutdown happens, it would probably be a boon to Democratic chances of holding onto a Senate majority in November,” Skelley said. “With so many close contests, Democrats would probably benefit the most in states that are fundamentally more Democratic, such as Iowa (which President Obama won twice) and North Carolina (which Obama won once and lost by just two points to Romney). But it could also prove to be a difference-maker for Democratic incumbents in the other big toss-up states of Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana, which are much more Republican.”
The Republicans blew two golden opportunities to take back control of the Senate in 2010 and 2012, mainly because they nominated weak or gaffe-prone conservatives who were defeated by Democrats in the general election.
This time, the party has done a better job of nominating more establishment candidates with better chances of defeating Democrats in the fall. And they already have three pretty much wrapped up in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
In the event a government shutdown cost the GOP wins in Iowa and North Carolina, they would have to sweep those other three toss-up states of Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana – and such an event would make that a lot harder to accomplish. After shaky starts, Begich, Pryor and Landrieu appear to be in much better shape.
“I have to think a government shutdown would help Democrats enough to hold onto other states that may well be in play, such as Colorado, Minnesota, and New Hampshire,” Skelley said.
Finally, the length of a shutdown could definitely magnify its impact. “To some degree, all bets would be off with the election taking place” just before the election, Skelley said. “I expect Republican leadership is going to be working very hard to avoid such a scenario even if the president does issue an executive order dealing with immigration.
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