Game over for GOP

By Zac Bears

l'ennui d'ennui/Flickr

Entering the ninth day of the federal government shutdown, the political positions of both parties are weakening, but the Republican Party’s position is eroding faster. As Tea Party members in the House hold GOP leadership hostage over the Affordable Care Act, federal services continue to abate and frustration grows among voters who elected this Congress to run the government.

According to an Oct. 2-6 Washington Post/ABC poll, 70 percent of Americans reported that they disapprove of the actions of congressional Republicans on the budget, with 51 percent disapproving strongly. That same poll shows that only 52 percent of Republicans approve of the budget strategy of the House and Senate GOP.

Due to the shutdown, meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board is unable to investigate a deadly Washington Metro accident due to the shutdown, and President Obama did not travel to the key Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia, opting to have Secretary of State John Kerry fill in for him. Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and China’s Xi Jinping were all in attendance.

Since the shutdown began, Obama’s approval ratings on the budget have improved, from 41 percent to 45 percent, with only 51 percent disapproving, according to the Washington Post/ABC poll. Congressional Democrats have fared worse than Obama but better than their GOP counterparts, with 61 percent disapproving. Simultaneously, 89 percent of Republicans disapprove of Obama while 89 percent of Democrats disapprove of congressional Republicans.

One reason for the continuing debacle could be that Speaker John Boehner predicted it less than twelve months ago. Just after Obama’s re-election, Boehner said, “Obamacare is the law of the land. If we were to put Obamacare into the CR (continuing resolution) and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.”

While that may not have been the goal of the Republicans immediately following the 2012 election, it is definitely the goal of some of them now. Beholden to the small, exceptionally powerful Tea Party caucus in the House (and Senators like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul), Boehner had to go back on his words from last fall even though he knows this shutdown casts serious doubts on GOP chances in the 2014 midterms.

Obama seems to be holding Boehner to his earlier statements. In a White House summary of a Tuesday phone call between the President and the Speaker, Obama said that he “is willing to negotiate with Republicans (on the budget and deficit) … after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed.”

A factor in the GOP’s downward trend is the factional division within the party. Conservative Republicans approve of the House GOP’s handling of the shutdown 59 to 39 percent, and those who identify as “very conservative” approve 68 to 32 percent. But, for all Republicans who identify as moderate or liberal, only 44 percent approve of how Republicans in Congress have handled this situation, according to the same WaPo/ABC poll. On the Democrats’ side, 77 percent approve of Obama’s actions.

In an October 3-6 National Journal poll, 65 percent of respondents believe that any changes to the Affordable Care Act should be dealt with separately from the debt ceiling; the same goes for the Keystone XL pipeline (70 percent), cuts in domestic spending (60 percent) and changes to federal earned benefit programs, such as Medicare and Social Security (68 percent).

So, in practice, the polity despises the GOP strategy of a shutdown, but, even in theory, the public dislikes the idea of a minority party forcing concessions on the budget, health care or any issue by holding the full faith and credit of the federal government hostage. The GOP has lost this game, and unless Boehner agrees to hold a vote on a clean continuing resolution, they’re just a bunch of sore losers.

Zac Bears is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]