The appetite for a government shutdown is growing among Republicans, who shied away from one during the debt and spending fights in the last Congress but now say one may be needed.
Several high-profile senators have begun laying the groundwork for a shutdown, saying it may be necessary in order to restore “fiscal sanity” on the federal budget.
“I think the last time we saw a shutdown, the fact that Republicans were willing to stand together — on fiscally conservative principles — ended up producing a result that was responsible and that benefited the country and that ultimately produced enormous economic growth,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas.
Fellow Texan Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber, wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle on Friday saying a partial shutdown may be needed to show that Congress is serious about cutting spending.
“It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well-being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain,” he wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, stopped short of endorsing the idea Sunday but didn’t rule it out, either. Instead, he called it a “shame” that Republicans are forced to consider such tactics in order to gain Democratic cooperation on spending cuts.
“None of us like using these situations like the sequester or the debt ceiling or operation of government to try to engage the president to deal with this,” Mr. McConnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s a shame we have to use whatever leverage we have in Congress to get the president to deal with the biggest problem of our time, and that’s our excessive spending.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said shutting down the government would be preferable to picking a fight on the debt ceiling, another tool in the Republican arsenal.
Mr. Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, also noted that he opted to shutter the federal government twice in the 1990s during budget negotiations with President Clinton, paving the way for a balanced budget and welfare reform.
“I helped close the government twice. It actually worked,” Mr. Gingrich said on “Meet the Press.” “Bill Clinton came in and said, ‘The era of big government is over’ after two closures, not before.”
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, also said members of his party need to be ready “to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown.”
He told MSNBC last week that it could be disruptive, but it’s better than accepting ever-increasing spending.
After losing on most of their demands in last week’s tax deal, which included minuscule spending cuts, congressional Republicans have warned that they will not cave again.
The upcoming budget fights include another increase in the government’s debt limit, due within two or three months, and another battle over automatic spending cuts, due by March 1. A month after that, the government’s funding runs out and must be renewed for the next six months.
Missing the debt deadline would force the government to cut about 40 percent of services immediately, and missing the six-month spending deal would mean an even broader shutdown.
The automatic spending cuts, or sequesters, would impose nearly $90 billion in immediate cuts.