With just over a week left before October 1, Forbes's Stan Collender upped his odds over the weekend of a GOP government shutdown to 75% as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have all but completely lost control of the Republican rank and file.
In the face of the House and Senate leadership’s effort to come up with a compromise, many primarily Republican anti-abortion groups intensified their demand for a shutdown aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood, even if it ultimately won’t be successful.
House GOP leaders offered to provide ways other than through a continuing resolution for members to demonstrate their opposition to Planned Parenthood, but the Freedom Caucus and its supporters rejected those options as meaningless gestures. The prospect of voting on these alternatives (one of the votes happened in the House last Friday) didn’t stop the shutdown talk and may have further infuriated those opposing funding for Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, the threat to John Boehner continuing as speaker became so real that senior members of the House Republican caucus began to campaign to move up in the leadership ranks if there’s an election. The three top members of the GOP House leadership after Boehner – Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) – reportedly were all openly jockeying for position.
The campaigning then pushed McCarthy and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) to announce that they supported Boehner even though having to make such an announcement demonstrated the true weakness of the speaker’s position.
Adding to the forces working against a CR, Texas Senator and GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz vocally and vociferously supported a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding during last week’s Republican presidential debate while the three other Republican senators also running for president – Lindsay Graham (SC), Marco Rubio (FL) and Rand Paul (KY) – either said nothing or were far less strident about it. Cruz’s position put significant added pressure on the other three either to support a shutdown or cede ground in the GOP presidential nomination with a key group of Republican voters. If, as is likely because of Cruz, all four oppose a CR, McConnell’s position on the issue will become untenable.
Now, House Republicans trying to depose Boehner has been a loser bet for years because literally nobody else wants the job, and the mess the GOP is in, a mess of their own creation, is exactly why. But the Planned Parenthood garbage, getting completely beaten on the Iran nuclear deal, and 2016 primaries being right around the corner makes it far more likely that the GOP in the House or Senate will do something monstrously stupid and shut down the government for a while, and as Collender says, Boehner's position is too weak to stop it. Nancy Pelosi's price to bail his ass out will rightfully be high and she'll win.
The wild card remains the Senate. Cruz already shut the place down once before. Voters refused to punish this behavior and effectively rewarded the Republicans with more House seats and the Senate as a result. Marco Rubio may still try to be the voice of "moderate "reason, but Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Lindsey Graham are running in the low single digits and have to do something to stay in the 2016 race, and that "something" is likely going to make for a very long October for America.
Even Collender admits that the 75% prediction is optimistic. I think the odds at this point are close to 95% if not 99%.
But as Greg Sargent points out, it's a massive con job by the GOP.
Their argument that Democrats will take the blame for a shutdown isn’t actually about somehow spooking Dems into fearing this fight or persuading GOP leaders to adopt this shutdown strategy and stick to it. They know GOP leaders won’t actually do that. Rather, their argument is targeted to conservatives voters: it’s designed to keep alive the illusion that there was indeed a way to win the battle if only GOP leaders had the stomach to see it through to the end.
Enhancing the hall of mirrors effect in play here, this is exactly what makes it possible to simply repeat the same argument two years later. The fact that Republicans lost previous government shutdown fights, which should ideally cast doubt on that argument and strategy, is — poof! — easily transformed into more fodder for the idea that Republicans only lose these fights due to a failure of will. Republican Congressional leaders have become the preferred pummeling dummies for presidential candidates who want to persuade conservative primary voters that they have cracked the code that has tormented them for years: Why can’t the GOP succeed in rolling back the Obama agenda?
Shutdowns cannot fail, they can only be failed by "weak Republican leaders" who aren't strong like the Republican senators running for the White House. So yes, absolutely expect a repeat from 2013 starting next week.