We are nearly a week into the government shutdown, and neither side of the aisle has shown any sign of backing down. Another hardline policy fight over raising the debt ceiling is coming up in just a couple weeks, so it’s unlikely that the impasse will end any time before that October 17th deadline.
With no real reason to compromise, the greater battle is over pinning blame for the shutdown on the other party. Leading that charge Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is desperate to convince the media and the public that the Democrats are the ones who want the shutdown to continue. “This isn’t some damned game,” Speaker Boehner said to the press on Friday. “The American people don’t want their government shut down, and neither do I. All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion, reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare.”
Is the speaker being genuine? Probably not. As a New York Times article this weekend notes, the GOP plan to eliminate Obamacare – even if it means grinding the government to a halt – has been in the works for a long time. The current funding standoff is the result of a detailed blueprint drawn together by special interest groups, conservative lawmakers and billionaire donors.
Despite their claims otherwise, shutting down the government isn’t something Republicans have tried to avoid, but something many have openly embraced as an option – both as a weapon against the Affordable Care Act and any other policy issue with which they disagreed.
Here are just eight of the many Republican politicians who have been pushing for a shutdown as far back as 2010:
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) has been called “the architect of the shutdown” by CNN. They report that Meadows “wrote a letter to his Republican leaders suggesting they tie the dismantling of Obamacare to the bill that funds the government for the next year . . . . Meadows successfully convinced 79 of his colleagues to sign on to his letter. And he went further, leading a group of 40 lawmakers to demand that the continuing resolution, or the short-term government funding bill at issue, zeroes out funding for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement so far.” (Meadows has nonetheless denied that a shutdown was the end goal: “Our intent has never been to shut down the government. It’s to stop the [health care] law.”)
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) has been ready to shut down the government since August. He told the conservative site Newsmax, “One of the things that we’re doing wrong is that we’re accepting the argument that when we defund Obamacare, that we’re closing the government down. We’re not! In fact, we’re saving the nation’s future by not funding it.”
Rep. Tom Massie (R-Kentucky) says a shutdown is just fine with him, since he was happier at home than at Congress, anyway. “The last thing I fear is going back and leading that same life,” he told Bloomberg Businessweek when they asked if he was concerned about losing his seat because of advocating for a shutdown.
Indiana’s Mike Pence is no longer in Congress, having been elected as the state’s governor in the 2012 cycle. But when he was still a member of the House, he was more than willing to shut the government down – in that case, in an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. According to the blog Crooks and Liars, when then-Rep. Pence was asked in 2011 if he would shut down the government over a budget that provided federal funds to the healthcare provider, he responded, “Well of course I am. I think the American people have begun to learn that the largest abortion provider in the country is also the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X, and they want to see that come to an end.”
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has also been calling for a government shutdown for years. In 2010, Rep. King asked for a “blood oath” that Obamacare would be repealed regardless of what it took, even if a shutdown was necessary. “I’d like to challenge them to make that pledge,” King said, according to Roll Call. “I’d like [Boehner] to make that commitment that if the president shuts down the government, there wouldn’t be a repeat of 1995 where the House caved.”
King wasn’t alone in 2010 by any means. Also clamoring for a shutdown was Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who figured it would be “frustrating” but worth it. “It’s an inconvenience, it would be frustrating to many, many people and it’s not a great thing, and yet at the same time, it’s not something that we can rule out,” he mused. “It may be absolutely necessary.”
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) is demanding that the responsibility for the shutdown be pinned on President Obama. “It’s a disservice to the Constitution, the taxpayers and the businesses of the nation,” he told Heritage News. “This has become a political issue and they are trying to make people believe the House Republicans are causing the shutdown.” This deflection is a throwback to 2010, when, just after being reelected, Rep. Walberg claimed his victory meant that the voters rejected the health care law, and if President Obama needed to bend to the will of the GOP: “If he doesn’t, he will shut government down.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has been taking the closing of the WW II memorial hard, demanding that it be allowed to stay open while the rest of the government stays closed. However, in 2010 Rep. Gohmert was more than willing to see everything shut down – for the sake of the children, of course. ThinkProgress reports Rep. Gohmert saying, “Listen, if it takes a shutdown of government to stop the runaway spending, we owe that to our children and our grandchildren. I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but if we don’t stop the runaway spending – even if it means showing how serious we are –okay, government is going to have to shut down until you runaway-spending people get it under control. And if you can’t get it under control, then we just stop government until you realize, you know, yes we can.”
There are reportedly enough votes in the House to produce a clean continuing resolution and end this shutdown for good. But until Boehner is willing to buck the hardliners in his own party, that vote is never going to happen.