Despite calls from rank-and-file teahadists to use the threat of government shutdown as leverage in the fight over funding the final seven months of fiscal year 2011, Republican leaders have repeatedly promised that they will not shut the government down.
President Obama has made it clear he's willing to accept some cuts, but he's also said he'd veto the House GOP's current proposal because it would undermine critical national priorities. In addition, the Senate is still controlled by Democrats, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has made it clear that the GOP plan isn't acceptable.
Obviously, what all this means is that if Republicans want to avoid shutting down the federal government, they are going to need to produce a budget that can get through the Senate and that President Obama is willing to sign: in short, a budget that won't strangle economic recovery and won't threaten long-term national priorities. Basically, the need to reach a compromise. But, as David Dayen points out, the question is whether teahadist back benchers in the House are willing to compromise.
The question is whether the tea party Republicans will accept that, and whether Boehner can find the votes for something that doesn’t cut by $61 billion in the next 7 months. He doesn’t seem to have a good hold over his caucus.
As David says, there's plenty of reason to be skeptical that Speaker Boehner will be able to get the teahadist contingent in his caucus to accept a compromise. Boehner has proven himself surprisingly inept at running the House so far and teahadists have vowed to do whatever it takes to get their way.
Assuming that teahadists do end up refusing to agree to a compromise budget, the conventional wisdom is that a government shutdown would be inevitable. But it's important to remember there would still be another way: non-teahadist Republicans could work with House Democrats to pass a spending bill compromise. Yes, that would leave teahadists out in the cold, but the House is governed by majority rule. Even if one-third of the GOP caucus sat on the sidelines, there's enough Democrats to make up the difference.
Whether or not the government ends up shutting down is entirely in Speaker Boehner's hands. The question he has to figure out is whether he can get his party's right flank behind a compromise deal, or whether he needs to dump them overboard and start working with Democrats. My bet is that the only way he can avoid a government shutdown is by pursuing the latter option.