Last week National Journal asked Democratic and Republicans “insiders” in Washington whether a government shutdown would be in their party’s best interest politically. Fifty-six percent of Democrats said yes, while 65 percent of Republicans said no.
Tim Pawlenty, the ex-governor of Minnesota and likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate, evidently is not one of those Republicans. In an interview with Think Progress over the weekend after his speech at the Tea Party Patriots summit in Phoenix, Pawlenty welcomed the idea of an imminent government shutdown. Here’s what he said:
PAWLENTY: We’ve got to get back to certain principles and responsibilities and starting with getting the budget balanced and if it takes a dramatic moment or a dramatic week or a dramatic month, those kinds of line-in-the-sand moments are what we need to get politicians back up against the wall and have them make the tough decisions.They all talk about making the tough decisions and never do.
THINK PROGRESS: So you would support a shutdown if it comes down to it?
PAWLENTY: If it came down to it and it was between that and not getting the budget headed in the right direction, that’s an option I think Republicans have to consider.
On Friday, House Republicans unveiled a proposal to temporarily fund the federal government through March 18 by slashing $4 billion over a two-week period, through the elimination of earmarks and cuts to programs that President Obama himself targeted in his own budget. Democrats tentatively gave their ok to the plan. Despite the National Journal poll, the Obama House desperately wants to avoid a shutdown, which it believes could harm the economy and hurt the president’s fragile poll numbers.
But the Tea Party is having none of it. Reported Jon Ward from the summit in Phoenix (via Mike Allen’s Playbook):
When [Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex.] told the crowd that the [party’s proposed] cuts…were “the largest spending cuts in the history of America”…the audience erupted in anger. “It’s not enough,” one person yelled as Barton was engulfed in a chorus of boos mixed in with hundreds in the crowd yelling, “More, more, more!’ ”
We’re witnessing a split between pragmatists in the GOP who believe the party now has a responsibility to govern and Tea Party hardliners who still want to be the party of no. Expect much of the GOP presidential field, including Pawlenty, to side with the latter camp as they court primary voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.