James Gill: Local politics of the shutdown

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee calls it “Bill Cassidy’s government shutdown,” which seems to overstate the stroke of a third-term congressman from Baton Rouge.

The Heritage Foundation, meanwhile, asks, “Why won’t Mary Landrieu stop the shutdown and defund Obamacare?” Jeez, Heritage Foundation, where have you been? Landrieu is one of Obamacare’s most ardent defenders. She’s been quoted extolling it in all the papers.

The foundation is spending $400,000 on TV ads asking the same dumb question in four states with Democratic senators it hopes to see unseated next year. Landrieu features on the GOP’s vulnerable list every time she runs, but is now seeking her fourth term, with Cassidy her principal challenger.

Since what is billed as a shutdown is really no more than a suspension of inessential services, and furloughed federal workers will get backpay anyway, by Election Day the squabble over which party is to blame may be long forgotten. The next fearsome spectre is that the world economy will collapse unless Congress raises the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, but voters may view that as an exaggeration too. Polls do not bespeak much trust in government, which voters are inclined to compare unfavorably with a kindergarten.

Still, its stock would sink even further if the United States were to default on its debts. It is hard to imagine that there are enough lunatics in Washington to risk such harm to their own political interests.

In fact, there are probably enough votes to end the shutdown, even without concessions from President Barack Obama, if a motion were presented in the House of Representatives.

Speaker John Boehner declares such a motion would fail, but since he refuses to call a vote, it is widely assumed that enough Republicans would cross the aisle to keep Uncle Sam in business.

There are plenty enough Republican lunatics in the House to exact a heavy price if Boehner should make them mad, however, and it is no wonder he is in no hurry to conciliate. The polls suggest voters are more likely to blame Republicans for the shutdown, so they may pay a price anyway, and one that grows heavier daily.

The case against the Republicans, as articulated by Landrieu, for instance, is that they are defying the rule of law in their willingness to paralyze government in order to delay and modify an Act of Congress that has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Landrieu, being a big fan of extending coverage to the hitherto uninsured, has a greater reverence for the law of the land on this occasion than Republicans who denounce Obamacare as a tantamount to socialism.

This must be the first time Blue Cross, say, has been branded a fellow traveler, but House Republicans evidently believe they have a moral obligation to destroy Obamacare, which passed before they regained control of the House.

Unfortunately for them, there is no legitimate way of blocking Obamacare with the likes of Landrieu dominant in the Senate and the White House ruling out any negotiation before the government has been funded.

Since that would leave the GOP with no bargaining power whatsoever, it is blackmail or nothing.

While that tactic is not playing well nationally, red states might take a different view, and no legislation bearing the alien name of Obama is going to get a warm reception in most parts of Louisiana.

Calling it the “Bill Cassidy shutdown” might even be regarded as a compliment.

It is still a bit of a stretch, for Cassidy has not been its most forthright proponent. True, he was one of 80 Republican House members who signed a letter in August urging the leadership to deep-six any spending bill that did not withdraw Obamacare funding.

But that was only after the Heritage Foundation had branded him a Laodicean on Obamacare, and even then he made it clear he would draw the line at any reductions in the armed forces.

A ll will be forgotten by Election Day. Indeed, by then we will have seen how Obamacare goes down with the voters.

If all the dire predictions prove wide of the mark, it won’t be the first time.

James Gill’s email is jgill@theadvocate.com