Democrats Want to Use Government Shutdown For Leverage on Debt Ceiling

Spending continues


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Senate Democrats apparently consider a prolonged partial government shutdown an advantage in the upcoming debate over the debate ceiling. The Hill reports:

Previously, Democrats were resistant to such an idea. That was at least in part because President Obama is refusing to negotiate on the debt limit. But a Democratic senator told The Hill this week that is no longer a concern, saying the White House can effectively deal with the GOP's tactics. 

Democrats are eager to deal with the debt limit now, when polls show most of the public blames Republicans for the shutdown. They contend it would be difficult for the GOP to make additional demands linked to the debt limit while they're embroiled in a crisis over a six-weekend spending stopgap.   

On the second day of the partial government shutdown, Republicans are already working to put themselves on the record in favor of reopening vital government services, like the national parks and the National Institutes of Health. Nick Gillespie noted earlier today the national parks and landmarks cost the feds at least $2.75 billion a year. With the government spending about twice as much as it collects in revenue, fiscally-minded lawmakers should be focusing on how to cut costs, and spending. The closure of the national parks is largely for show, appearing to be an attempt by the executive branch to exaggerate the effects of the partial shutdown, a tactic known as Washington Monument Syndrome. The National Park Service, for example, sent law enforcement agents to close a park in Virginia it didn't fund but that was located on federal land. The managing director of Claude Moore Colonial Farm pointed out it costs the NPS more to police their park in an effort to keep it closed than it does to keep the park open, which costs the feds nothing.

And just how much, or how little, is the partial government shutdown saving the federal government. A week ago, before the government shutdown, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned the US would run out of money to spend on October 17th. Despite no end in sight for the partial government shutdown, Lew again warned Congress the debt limit would be reached October 17th. Democrats' willingness to continue the shutdown until the debt limit is hits suggests that limit's not going to be hit much later even if the government is partially shut down throughout that period.

As with the sequester, the government shutdown illustrates that government officials are more interested in fear mongering over an inability to spend to their heart's desire rather than budgeting within their means like the rest of us.

If neither the shutdown nor the looming debt limit can be leveraged to rein in federal spending, then the idea that Washington is supposed to budget itself becomes a complete fiction. Why budget or set debt ceilings if you can just spend without abandon anyway?