If the government shuts down at midnight on Monday, it will largely be the result of a strategy pursued by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Democrats have lined up so squarely behind Reid’s strategy that President Obama cancelled planned negotiations with congressional leaders to find a resolution. Not only has Reid refused to even talk with Republicans, he has employed tactics that seemed designed to “run out the clock” ahead of a shutdown.
The Senate will reconvene at 2pm on Monday to consider the latest House-passed Continuing Resolution. This CR, which also delays ObamaCare for one year, was passed in the wee hours Saturday. Yet, the Senate remained away from Washington on Sunday. Had it immediately returned to consider the CR, it would have bought precious time for the chambers to hammer out an agreement to avoid a shutdown.
Convening at 2pm, however, leaves just 10 hours until the government’s spending authority expires. Given the slow pace of action in the Senate, it seems almost impossible that Congress can now prevent a partial government shutdown.
“He’s been the rock … and he’s had our whole caucus behind him,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said about Reid. “Because if we negotiate on a short-term [government funding bill], what are [Republicans] going to do on a long-term bill? What are they going to do on the debt ceiling?”
Reid took a similar cavalier approach to the first House CR, which defunded ObamaCare. Passed a little over a week ago, Reid again waited until after the weekend to take action. Had he instead immediately filed the motions necessary to begin Senate action, Congress would have gained an additional few days to negotiate a solution.
Reid’s actions suggest he is eager for a government shutdown. The conventional wisdom is that Republicans will be blamed for any shutdown, because the media will blame them for being obstructionists. This happened during the last government shutdown in 1996, although it is unclear how much political damage the GOP suffered since it maintained its Congressional majorities for the next decade.
The media landscape is not what is was in 1996. Reid’s insistence on not even speaking with Congressional Republicans, also, begs the question of who is being unreasonable. Reid may want to avoid negotiations on the larger budget and fiscal issues, but that is a necessary feature of representative government.
Harry Reid is the architect of the coming government shutdown. He, and his caucus, will be made to own it.