A few weeks ago Washington was buzzing with predictions that Republicans will impeach President Obama.
More recently, Washington has been buzzing with predictions that Republicans will shut down the government.
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Both have come mostly from Democrats facing long odds in November's midterms, hoping the GOP might do something suicidal before voters go to the polls. For them, sheer ecstasy would be Republicans shutting down the government while keeping House offices open to draft articles of impeachment.
The only problem is, well-connected Republicans insist it's not going to happen.
House Speaker John Boehner appeared to settle the impeachment question last month when he called all the talk a "Democratic scam" and added, "We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans."
So the subject changed to a shutdown. It's a more substantial accusation; after all, House Republicans have never impeached Barack Obama, but they have shut down the government. But it appears there's little or nothing to the shutdown talk, either.
The government runs out of money at the end of September, so Congress will have to pass a continuing resolution by then to keep it running. The rumors are that if Obama takes some sort of far-reaching action on immigration, as is widely expected, infuriated Republicans will retaliate by threatening to close the government unless Obama backs down. Obama, protected by a Democratic Senate, will of course not back down, and a shutdown will ensue.
At least that's the scenario. I asked one plugged-in, senior GOP adviser whether there was any chance -- any chance at all -- that would happen. His one-word response: "No."
An equally senior GOP aide added: "We are not going to shoot ourselves in the foot and jeopardize our chances of winning the Senate and gaining seats in the House."
In his new book, The Way Forward, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan calls last year's shutdown a "suicide mission" and says the GOP's shutdown strategy was "flawed from beginning to end."
"Wow," Ryan remembers thinking as the shutdown became a reality. "This can't be the full measure of our party and our movement. If it is, we're dead, and the country is lost."
That doesn't sound like a man contemplating another shutdown.
Perhaps the closest thing to a smoking gun Democrats have now is a statement made by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio that has been interpreted as a shutdown threat. In an interview with Breitbart News, Rubio said that if Obama acts on immigration, then "There will have to be some sort of a budget vote or a continuing resolution vote, so I assume there will be some sort of a vote on this. I'm interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue."
That led to a story in the Huffington Post headlined, "Marco Rubio Hints At A Government Shutdown Fight Over Immigration." And then came an article by Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also in the Huffington Post, which declared Rubio "willing to risk another government shutdown," and urged Obama to resist being "held hostage to Marco Rubio and the GOP's demands."
Rubio's office says there's nothing to it. "We're not going to shut down the government," spokesman Alex Conant told me. "Ultimately, Republicans will need to win control of the Senate to reverse an executive action. We would be interested in having a vote on it in the context of the budget debate, but we are not going to shut down the government."
Just to be clear, I asked Conant whether that meant Rubio would like to attach some sort of immigration rider to a funding bill, but if it lost, Rubio would accept the loss and the government would be funded. "Right," responded Conant. "We're not going to shut down the government."
For good measure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who last year ruled out another shutdown, reaffirmed that recently.
Despite all that, Democrats might still argue that the relatively small minority of House Republican conservatives who forced a shutdown last year could do it again this year. But those GOP members were only able to force a shutdown because Boehner accommodated them. Now, after the damage to the party's standing done by the last shutdown, it seems highly unlikely -- make that virtually impossible -- that Boehner would do that again.
So it appears that after all the talking is over, the government will keep running -- even if that leaves Democrats bitterly disappointed.
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