Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 17th, 2011 5:37 am by HL
With a potential government shutdown looming, the GOP is attempting to have it both ways on the issue. Earlier this week, an “exasperated” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) declared that a government shutdown was “off the table,” only to be undercut by another GOP House leader, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who told ThinkProgress that a shutdown was “on the table.” Despite Cantor’s best efforts, over a half-dozen other Republicans are publicly calling for a government closure.
Republicans in the pro-shutdown caucus are trying to frame the effects of a potential shutdown as minor. Appearing on Fox News a few months ago, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) argued in favor of a closure, declaring that, “I don’t think [a government shutdown] would hurt one bit.” Paul also told ThinkProgress last weekend that a shutdown is “not something I worry about.”
Now, freshmen Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) is also parroting the notion of a pain-free shutdown. ThinkProgress caught up with Kelly at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Though he stopped short of supporting a government closure, Kelly defended the potential consequences of a shutdown. He argued that even if there is a shutdown, the government is “not going to stop, people aren’t going to lose their Social Security checks and they’re not going to lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid”:
KEYES: If these cuts, either defunding or dismantling Obamacare, either dies in the Senate or dies at Obama’s veto pen, would you be willing to join Jim DeMint and others who have said that this is worth trying to have a showdown and potentially a government shutdown just to show how serious we are about this?
KELLY: I don’t know that you have to have a government shutdown. We can do things with funding. At the end of the day, Congress controls the purse strings. So when you defund and you take the funding away from certain things, you in fact shut down that part. But shutting down the government, nobody wants to hear that. The other thing is, I don’t like that terminology of shutting down the government because really, it’s a fear factor. People know it’s not realistic. The government is not going to shut down, it’s not going to stop. People aren’t going to lose their Social Security checks and they’re not going to lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid. I think we have to be careful when we use that kind of talk. I think what we’re talking about is, look, we control the funding, let’s make sure we’re doing the right thing for the people.
KEYES: So even if that were to happen, theoretically, it wouldn’t be as bad as people make it out to be?
KELLY: No, I don’t think so. I really don’t.
Kelly’s assertions are simply not true. One need look no further than the federal government shutdown of 1995 for proof. During the nearly four-week shutdown, Social Security checks were not mailed and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements were disrupted. According to a Center for American Progress report entitled “The Big Freeze,” the shutdown ultimately “cost the American taxpayer over $800 million and rattled the confidence of international investors in U.S. government bonds.”
But don’t take ThinkProgress’ word for it. Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared on the Laura Ingraham Show yesterday and said a shutdown would be nothing short of a “trainwreck”:
INGRAHAM: Would you accept, or even demand, a government shutdown if you don’t get the entitlement reform that you said is necessary as we move forward?
BACHMANN: I don’t think anybody wants to see the government shut down. That’s a trainwreck when something like that happens because quite literally, no checks go out, everything stops. You can’t do that, you can’t just have the military stop. We have to have protection.
During last year’s election season, some of the most vitriolic anti-government rhetoric came from GOP officials in the state of Georgia. Across the state, Republican lawmakers ranging from members of Congress all the way up to gubenatorial candidate Nathan Deal demonized the government and praised the free market as the solution to all of the state’s problems:
- Rep. Jack Kingston: Kingston’s opposition to government spending was so intense that he even put together a PowerPoint presentation about “destroying the infrastructure of spending” that he presented to the House Republican Steering Committee. [11/30/10]
- Sen. Johnny Isakson: Isakson campaigned on a promise to “stop out-of-control federal spending,” saying that “Congress continues to spend money at an alarming and unsustainable rate, and it is a recipe for disaster and failure.” [3/12/10]
- Sen. Saxby Chambliss: Last summer, Chambliss appeared on the Republican Party’s weekly radio show and complained about how “Congress and this White House still continue to splurge” on federal spending. He warned that future generations would have to “pay higher taxes to foot the bill for Democrats’ out-of-control spending.” [7/3/10]
- Then-gubenatorial candidate Nathan Deal: Deal’s stand against government spending was so extreme that one his spokesmen even compared federal dollars to illicit drugs: “The thing with this federal money is it’s like a drug dealer: the first one’s free and then they’ve got you hooked and you play by their rules.” [8/3/10]
Yet all these Republicans are now singing a different tune related to a local government project they have been advocating for. For years, the port city of Savannah, Georgia, has sought federal funds in order to expand and deepen the Savannah Port, which would allow for more extensive operations and commerce in the major southeastern port. The Georgia congressional delegation as well as Gov. Nathan Deal had requested $105 million in order to make these expansions in the recent Obama budget. Yet the budget contained only $600,000 for the project, falling well short of the request. Now, these same Republicans are complaining about not getting enough federal spending that they all campaigned against this past election season:
- Rep. Jack Kingston: Kingston complained that he “would’ve liked to see more” federal spending given to the port project. [2/14/11]
- Sen. Johnny Isakson: Isakson said it was “critically important that we expand the harbor to ensure it continues to act as a gateway for business to Georgia and to the nation” and that he would work “relentlessly” to get the funding he had requested. Amusingly, the senator also put out a press release the very next day blasting Obama’s budget because it “spends too much.” [2/14/11, 2/15/11]
- Sen. Saxby Chambliss: Chambliss promised to “continue to fight, along with my Georgia colleagues, to fund the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.” [2/14/11]
- Gov. Nathan Deal: Deal, apparently no longer willing to compare the federal government to a drug dealer, said the state “obviously hoped for a much greater show of support from the president.” The governor even went as far as to say that the Constitution mandate that it’s the federal government’s “responsibility” to pay for ports. [2/15/11, 2/14/11]
Kingston, responding to a tweet asking about the port project from the Georgia Young Democrats on CSPAN, lavished praise on the port project, saying that “infrastructure spending can create jobs.” “There’s a big case out there for infrastructure spending,” Kingston concluded. Watch it:
There is, of course, nothing wrong with Georgia Republicans or lawmakers anywhere requesting funds for important infrastructure projects like those taking place at the Savannah Port Authority. It is however highly inconsistent to run political campaigns demonizing government and promoting the free market as the solution to all economic problems and then complain when you are unable to receive federal dollars for your home-state project — which you are willing to admit creates jobs and helps the economy.