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After Wisconsin, How Do Democrats Argue Against a GOP Government Shutdown?

2:15 PM, Feb 20, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Congressional Democrats engaged in more saber rattling today over concerns House Republicans will shutdown the government if Democrats don't agree to some pretty significant budget cuts. The continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on March 4:

Senior Senate Democrats slammed Republicans on Sunday for a "reckless" threat to shut down the government as political posturing intensified on both sides over federal spending and the budget deficit.

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Saturday to cut federal spending by $61 billion through September. But The bill, pushed through by Republicans, was sure to be significantly changed by President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in the Senate.

"Unfortunately Speaker Boehner seems to be on a course that would inevitably lead to a shutdown ... That's reckless," said Democratic Senator Charles Schumer on CNN'S State of the Union program, speaking of House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress.

"We have said shutdown is off the table ... Boehner, Mitch McConnell, other Republican leaders have not taken it off the table when asked, and there are lots of people on the hard right clamoring for a shutdown.

The obvious point here is that if it's so "reckless" to shutdown the government, why have Wisconsin legislators, the President and the DNC all supported the government shutdown in Wisconsin? Not only that, they have shutdown the government by fleeing the state and breaking the law, not to mention the illegal union strikes shutting down schools and national Democrats helping to organize the angry mob descending on Madison.

Conventional wisdom in the Beltway  has it that a government shutdown would be bad for Republicans, just as it was the last time it happened in 1995, when Former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich took on Clinton over the budget. However, Michael Barone recently made the point that it may not have been that bad -- Republicans only lost 9 seats in 1996 after the historic gains in 1994. (True, Clinton won in 1996 but Bob Dole's candidacy was never much competition.)

Now the budget crisis is much, much worse than it was in 1996 -- Obama and Congressional Democrats added $4 trillion to the deficit in just over two years. I don't think the magnitude of our current fiscal problems are lost on voters. And the more Congressional Democrats ratchet up the rhetoric towards the House GOP over the shutdown, the more they're liable to be called out as rank hypocrites following right on heels of the Democratic temper tantrum in Wisconsin. 

Causing a government shutdown may still be a risky gambit for Republicans, but it will be very hard for Democrats to make the case against it with any moral authority and stir up voter sympathy.

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