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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Countdown to collision -- Editorial, The Washington Times

Republicans have a week to show they mean what they say

Washington politicians are masters of illusion. They hem and haw over budgetary “cuts” while spending more than ever. Words are flying over a government shutdown, focused on next week’s convergence of deadlines for funding the federal bureaucracy and opening day of Obamacare. We can expect noise and not much action.

The House opened by sending a continuing resolution to the Senate, providing generous funding for the entire federal government, except for Obamacare. Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, will take one look at the bill and send it back, amended to restore Obamacare funding. That leaves the House where it started, facing the same deadlines with less time on the clock. It increases pressure on Republican leaders in the House to take whatever deal the White House puts on the table, meaning full funding for the health care scheme.

Conservatives hope to paint Mr. Obama as the schoolyard bully who insists on hogging the ball for the entire recess. “If the House offers to fund 99.9 percent of all the funds necessary [to run the government],” says Rep. Darrell E. Issa of California, “and the president says, ‘No, I want a full 100 percent,’ the answer has to be, ‘You’re not the chief appropriator.’” Mr. Obama does not worry about his image. He can get away with hogging the ball.

The Republican shutdown threat packs little credibility because Republicans have never stood up to this White House. The House speaker and Senate minority leader take the path of least resistance in hopes of winning more leverage in the next election. It hasn’t worked. Once the ribbons are cut on opening day of the Obamacare exchanges, it’s a highly visible and painful defeat for the Republicans.

A shutdown is high risk politically, but the actual shutdown might be more drama than actual pain. The federal bureaucracy has grown so large that a shutdown government is nevertheless enormous and not actually as quiet as the tomb. Contingency plans filed with the Office of Management and Budget reveal that the slimmed-down bureaucracy will hum right along.

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