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Why Republicans Will Shut Down The Government

I think there's a good chance that Republicans, if they take control of the House, will shut down the government. Listen to this rhetoric by Mike Pence:

Republicans aren't interested in compromising with President Obama on major issues if they retake the House or Senate, a senior GOP lawmaker said.

"Look, the time to go along and get along is over," said Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference. "House Republicans know that. We’ve taken firm and principled stands against their big government plans throughout this Congress, and we’ve got, if the American people will send them, we’ve got a cavalry of men and women headed to Washington, D.C. that are going to stand with us."

Pence said his party wouldn't compromise on issues like spending or healthcare reform, two of the weightiest items on Congress's agenda next year, when the Republicans could control one or both chambers.

"Look, there will be no compromise on stopping runaway spending, deficits and debt. There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare. There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes," Pence told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday evening. "And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise."

Now, I don't believe that the Republican leadership thinks shutting down the government would be a good idea. It's that the base is going to demand it. Indeed, Pence made that statement in response to conservatives who were furious because Senator Judd Gregg conceded the obvious reality that repealing the Affordable Care Act is not a realistic goal.

The problem for the Republican leadership is that that base is whipped up into a frenzy -- a frenzy they themselves have helped foment -- and one characteristic of this frenzy is a belief that the party leadership is prepared to sell them out. Nowm the dynamic over the next two years, assuming Republican control of the House, is that the GOP is not going to be able to get its agenda passed because it will require President Obama's signature. That means no repealing the ACA, no passing new tax cuts, etc. That leaves two options: compromise with Obama and pass bills they don't like, or shut down the government.

It seems clear that the base is not in a mood to accept compromise. And House Republicans fear their base more than anything else, because most of them are far more vulnerable to losing their seat via a right-wing primary challenge than any other way. I'm sure the Republican leadership would love to win the House and convince their base that the next two years will be about keeping the status quo, blocking appointments, maybe throwing some sand in the gears of government and tying up the executive branch with investigations, and then hopefully working on a positive agenda if they can win the presidency in 2012. I just don't think they can get the base to accept that, because it's going to mean passing budgets with large deficits that keep the ACA in place (or budgets with smaller deficits that include a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes, which would be worse).