One of my most enduring memories from the first government shutdown in 1995 was the report about it on the network evening news the first day. While those of us inside the beltway were focused on the extraordinary political spectacle, the report showed a video of cars, vans, and campers not being allowed to get into a national park -- I think it was Yosemite -- because, like other federal offices not deemed essential, the park was closed.
As I remember, the video showed two things.
First, the lines were long because, even though the shutdown was widely reported, many people didn't realize that national parks would be affected. Many of those shown said that they didn't know the national parks were federal facilities.
Second, to put it mildly, the people shown on camera were irate. The government shutdown that was just an abstraction to most people up to that point immediately became very real and personal.
When I was much younger, I helped start a monthly breakfast meeting for a handful of inside-the-beltway budget wonks.
Politico had an outstanding but truly bone-chilling story yesterday about how appealing the prospects of a default and a government shutdown may be to House Republicans.
According to the piece by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Jake Sherman, forcing a default by not raising the debt ceiling and shutting down the government by not passing a continuing resolution may be the preferred ways to go by a majority of the House GOP caucus no matter what that would mean to the U.S. economy, the Republican Party's overall approval rating, the GOP's prospects for a Senate majority in 2014 or a Republican winning the White House in 2016.
To those of us who have watched Washington operate for a while, this obviously sounds like totally insane, crazy self-destructive behavior by the House GOP.
But it would be wrong to dismiss it out of hand. From the conversations I've had with Republicans House members and staff since the 2012 election, the threats, are real and make a great deal of political sense no matter how obnoxious and damaging it otherwise would be.
There's not much I need to say to introduce my column from today's Roll Call other than that I really felt I had no choice but to write this as directly as I did. A special shout out to Roll Call for not blinking even once when I told them what I wanted to write this week
The Irresponsibility of Speaker John Boehner
May 22, 2012, Midnight
Like most federal budget watchers, I assumed that the extremely negative political reaction to the federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 meant that tactic wasn’t likely to be threatened again, let alone actually used. That changed last year when a shutdown became the favored approach for many on Capitol Hill.
I've been very hesitant to say anything about the possibility of a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires this Friday at midnight because...honestly...I've been predicting that one would occur since last year and have been wrong in much the same way that some economists are accused of predicting 10 of the last 2 recessions.
It bears mentioning, however, that the most recent dispute over government spending is proving to be far more intractable than most observers and participants had imagined it would be because (1) the recent GOP reticence about being blamed for stalemates on Capital Hill seems to have evaporated and (2) the fight over funding for the rest of fiscal 2012 is now combined with so many other politically tough or tantalizing issues.
I would not be at all surprised, therefore, if one of three things happen by the stroke of midnight on Friday, December 16: