The Republican Party should temporarily retreat from the brink of a government shutdown and retrench to wage a battle over the debt limit increase two weeks hence.
It was unwise of House Speaker John Boehner to insist on linking Obamacare to the bill to keep the government open rather than to the debt-limit increase in the first place. But he must not compound the mistake by actually letting the government shut down. To do so would be to wage a fight he can’t win and sabotage his best shot at winning two weeks later.
Why the difference?
The public opposes the idea of shutting down the government but supports the idea of linking a debt-limit increase to a cut in spending. They understand that when you borrow more money, you should be forced to cut your spending. But they do not agree with shutting down the government just to have your way over a legislative agenda.
To force an actual shutdown would so prejudice the public against the Republican House that it would endanger its ability to prevail over the debt-limit fight and give Obama an easy win on a bill that he otherwise might not have been able to pass.
There are two exceptions to this suggestion for a “clean” continuing resolution for keeping the government open:
a. The House should insist that no special subsidies be given to members of Congress for heath insurance. (They now get 3/4 of their cost paid by tax money).
b. The continuing resolution does not raise spending above the $966 billion agreed to in the last debt-limit fight. The Senate is seeking to raise spending by $20 billion to avoid some of the cuts in the coming sequester.
Apart from these two conditions, the Republican Party should retreat and retrench to fight again over different, and better, ground two weeks hence.