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Why A Government Shutdown Is A Bad Idea

There are some issues that conservatives of good conscience can disagree on and remain well within core conservative principles.

By David Thornton

One of these is the issue of shutting down the government. As President Trump and congressional Republicans consider shutting down the government over funding for the “big, beautiful wall,” they should avoid falling into what is Democrat trap.

The core problem for Republicans is a lack of votes. Although Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress, the margins are slim and they lack the 60 votes required to end a Democrat filibuster. As a legislative strategy, a government shutdown does nothing to resolve this problem.

The only way for Republicans to pass a bill funding the wall — or anything else for that matter — is to make Democrats and moderate Republicans change their votes. The way to do that is to sweeten the pot. To give Democrats something they want in exchange for something that Republicans want.

A shutdown would do the opposite. It would be a combative policy that would further alienate Democrats and give them no incentive at all to vote for the Republican bill. In fact, a government shutdown would play directly into the hands of Democrats who want nothing more than for the Trump Administration to fail.

Further, if Republicans are determined to pick a fight, the border wall is the wrong issue.  Polling indicates that about two-thirds of Americans oppose Trump’s wall. Numerous studies, including one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), have indicated that a Trump-style wall would be a boondoggle that is hugely expensive yet ineffective. This is especially true in Texas where the Rio Grande forms the border with Mexico and much of the land on the border is privately owned by ranchers who need access to the river’s water.

Add to that the fact that voters don’t like shutdowns. When Republicans shut down the government over Obamacare in 2013, the party’s approval quickly tanked. In fact, Gallup found that Republican approval sank to its lowest point ever. If Obamacare’s failures had not turned the tables on the Democrats, Republicans would have likely suffered a wipeout in the 2014 midterms. Through it all, Obamacare remained intact.

The 2013 shutdown occurred with a Democrat president in office and the GOP still took the brunt of the blame. There is little question who would be blamed if Republicans, who now control the White House as well as both houses of Congress, shut the government down over the wall.

As a strategy, a government shutdown offers very little for conservatives to like. It would be an unpopular strategy used to enact an unpopular policy, but that isn’t the worst part.

The worst part is that it won’t work. A government shutdown would inevitably lead to yet another embarrassing defeat for the GOP and President Trump. There is simply no way for the party to win without Democrat votes for cloture.

Democrats would use a shutdown to tell the country that President Trump and the Republicans are incapable of governing. It would be difficult to prove them wrong.

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