Report: House Republican Majority Prepared to Default If Don’t Get Their Way (UPDATED)

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

I’ve noted here the past few years that rank partisanship and the idea that ideology and political triumph is the number one goal has made many “givens” in American politics “ungivens.” Remove the “given” that House Republicans in the end will be unwilling to default. The Politico reports that House Republicans are fully prepared to do two things that could decimate the economy and negatively impact millions of Americans if the Obama administration doesn’t declare surrender on their demands:
House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or

shutting down the government, to force President Barack Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.

The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”

Why not try it? I mean, it worked out really well for Newt Gingrich when he was speaker. Or did it?

Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

Shall we run that paragraph again so it sinks in what is being said and what it says about a)how Republican leadership views the impact on everyday Americans of a shut down (it’s not a factor) and b)it’s all about keeping their seats in power, not doing what is good for the country. Just so I don’t get emails, here it is again:

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

AND:

The country would eventually default if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit, which the Treasury estimates will hit in late February or early March. The government would shut down if House Republicans instead were to refuse to extend the law funding current government operations on March 27.

On a personal note, I continue to be amazed — frankly it does not compete with me — how elected officials who have healthy bank accounts, homes, most likely trust funds, get government health insurance, eat fancy meals in Congress dining rooms, had expense accounts, etc. could seemingly care so little about the bulk of Americans.

A shutdown and particularly a default will have consequences TO THE COUNTY’S ECONOMY.

If it looks like default:
–GOPers will have to pull back in the end OR
–The Obama administration will have to give in which will set a precedent for the equivilent of economic blackmail being successfully used as a tool to attain partisan and ideological goals. AND
–The negative impact to the U.S. economy by either of these moves will likely ensure a big Democratic turnout in 2014 because by now it has probably sunk in to Dems that historically they lose seats in non-Presidential years when they are in power. A setback to the economy for ideological reasons would be a boon to not just Democratic fundraising but getting people out during a non-election year. And Republicans would be wise if they used a pollster different than Mitt Romney’s this time. AND
–The Republicans if they take either of these courses will score points with Fox News, talk show hosts and conservative bloggers but will make no inroads in attracting more voters to their tent. They could lose some since GOPers who have businesses would be impacted by the economic consequences.

The most important point here is, we’re close to a point where we need to throw out all “givens” about how American politics has functioned in the end for the common good. What seems most important to some folks who have power is to use power in a way that we have not seen in our history: as economic blackmail to they can please people for ideological reasons in their districts to hold their seats.

The question now is: is the Obama administration ready for what is no longer a wild scenario but quite probable?

UPDATE: For some more thoughts (and good links from others) be sure to read Doug Mataconis.