In a statement issued today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are the only one talking shutdown.
“The only people talking about shutting down the government are a handful of Senate Democrats at a press conference today,” he says.
His spokesman, Don Stewart adds, “As Republicans focus on constructive ways for the two parties to work together on cutting spending and debt, Senator Schumer seems strangely preoccupied with the notion of a government shutdown. It is our hope that he soon realizes the only person talking about a shutdown is Senator Schumer. Most Americans and even many in his own party have come to realize that the gravity of our current fiscal problems calls for constructive dialogue that will lead to serious cuts in spending and debt. That’s what Republicans are focused on. We hope Senator Schumer joins that bipartisan effort soon.”
Schumer’s response to this is twofold: One, a number of rank and file Republicans (as opposed to Republican leaders) have said they’d entertain a shutdown. Number two, Republican leaders won’t, as a negotiating position, take a shutdown off the table. He cites, for instance, the below exchange on Meet the Press this past weekend.
MR. GREGORY: Is the prospect of a government shutdown over any potential fight over spending, is that an option in your mind? Is it a viable alternative?
SEN. McCONNELL: We, we have two opportunities coming up. We have the continuing resolution on March 4th, and then the president has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. So we have two opportunities here to do something important for this country on the issue of spending and debt. We ought not to lose that opportunity. The president ought to work with
us on both those occasions to address this important issue.
MR. GREGORY: Is a government shutdown a viable alternative in your mind?
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SEN. McCONNELL: As I said, we have two opportunities, opportunities…
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. McCONNELL: …both the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling, to try to accomplish something on a bipartisan basis on both our short term debt and our long-term unfunded liability.
MR. GREGORY: But you won’t take shutdown off the table if it comes to that?
SEN. McCONNELL: We have two opportunities to do something important for the country on spending and debt. We ought not to miss this opportunity. The president ought to step up to the plate with us and tackle it together.
The incentives for this exact brinksmanship have existed for months and months. For their part, Senate Democrats say they’ll introduce their own spending limits, and will work with the GOP to avoid a government shutdown. “I would be against a government shutdown, period. It does huge damage to hundreds of millions of innocent people, and risks playing with fire with our credit markets,” Schumer told reporters today.
Even if Republicans don’t budge?
“We should not have a government shutdown. If they don’t budge and say they want a government shutdown they’re causing it. We don’t want to do that.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.