Who’s Afraid of Virginia Shutdown?

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Kate Riga is giving us the play by play on Speaker Mike Johnson’s attempt to do exactly what Kevin McCarthy did while not paying the price McCarthy did for doing it. As we’re seeing, he’ll almost certainly pull it off. The House Freedom Caucus guys know he’s one of them, at least genetically related if not identical. That’s helping. They also realize they need to give him some time to get his footing before tossing him overboard. But what stands out most is House Republicans’ great reluctance to shut the government down – more reluctance than I expected. New boss, old boss, the same dynamics govern in the spring, the fall and now in the winter.

I don’t want to overstate this. Shutdowns are like mother’s milk for Republican partisans. It’s like winning the playoffs or the good guy getting the girl at the end of the movie. They live for it. But even if hardliners are cutting Johnson slack I would have figured a bit more desire to rumble with the Senate and the White House. Show what they’re made of and all that. But whoever is in the Speaker’s chair seems highly resistant to going down that path.

I jest a bit here. But not much. Two reasons jump out. The first is that Republicans know, protestations aside, that they will get blamed for a shutdown and that it will have political costs for them at the next election. Johnson won the lottery happening into the Speakership. He doesn’t want that to end. The other factor is that he knows he’ll lose. By ‘lose’ in this case I mean he knows he’ll get chewed up by the Senate and the White House. So he can cut a deal to move forward with Democratic votes today or do the same thing in tend days later after having shut the government down for ten days. Why not just cut to the chase?

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