Andy Bloom: Walking the plank — again

With only days to avert a government shutdown, a group of renegade House Republicans seems intent on making the entire party walk the plank — again. Unless there is a funding deal, the government will shut down for the fourth time since 1995 on October 1.

The same renegades who forced fifteen ballots to elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker are focusing on President Biden’s impeachment inquiry rather than keeping the government running. I derided them then, as I do now.

Based on who got the blame for the last three shutdowns, the one likely to begin on October 1 is another unforced error that will change the narrative and hurt Republicans in 2024.

The previous shutdowns lasting more than a day were:

  • 1995–1996: President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress could not agree on spending levels, causing the government to shut down twice for a total of 26 days.
  • 2013: A House and Senate standoff over funding for Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act, or ACA) resulted in a sixteen-day shutdown.
  • 2018–2019: A dispute over border wall funding led to a shutdown that lasted 35 days; it was a partial shutdown because Congress had previously passed five of the twelve appropriation bills.

In each case, Republicans were most blamed for the shutdown, which hurt the entire GOP.

After winning control of the House in 1994, for the first time in 48 years, the 1995–96 shutdown paved the way for Bill Clinton’s reelection in 1996. Republicans lost seats in 1996 and 1998. Even in 2000, when George W. Bush narrowly won the White House, Democrats picked up one seat in the House.

House Republicans took the brunt of the blame for the 1995–96 government shutdown in almost all public opinion polls. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found 46 percent blaming the Republican Congress, while 27 percent faulted Clinton (twenty percent both, two percent neither, and five percent don’t know).

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Republicans in Congress once again shouldered the lion’s share of blame for the 2013 shutdown. A Fox News poll conducted during the first two days of the shutdown found that 42 percent blamed Republicans compared to 32 percent who blamed Democrats. At the end of the shutdown, a CNN poll also showed 42 percent blaming Republicans and 33 percent Democrats.

A Gallup poll conducted during the first week of the shutdown revealed that the percentage of Americans with a favorable view of the Republican Party had fallen to the lowest level for either of the two major parties (28 percent) since Gallup started asking the question in 1992. Republicans fell ten percentage points from September, before the shutdown.

The results after the 2018–19 shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, show it’s no fluke: it’s a trend. This time, President Trump received the largest share of the blame instead of Congressional Republicans.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted at the shutdown’s start found 47 percent blaming Trump and 33 percent blaming Congressional Democrats. A Morning Consult poll had similar results, with 43 percent blaming Trump, 31 percent for Congressional Democrats, and seven percent for Congressional Republicans.

At the end of the shutdown, in a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 53 percent said Trump and Republicans in Congress were mainly responsible for the shutdown, compared to 29 percent for Democrats in Congress (both equally thirteen percent). Among Independents, it broke down to 53 percent Trump and Republicans in Congress and 23 percent Democrats in Congress (seventeen percent both equally). A PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found 54 percent blaming Trump, 31 percent Congressional Democrats, and five percent Congressional Republicans (ten percent didn’t know). 

Trump’s positives in FiveThirtyEight’s tracking poll fell a couple of points, and his negatives rose to nearly 55 percent.

It seems that about a dozen renegade House Republicans will cause the entire GOP to walk the plank — again.

George W. Bush once quipped, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you.” Republicans have previously been fooled three times, and in each, the GOP took the blame and suffered the political consequences. Yet ten to twelve Republican House members are ready to take the bait again. These are the same members who created a fifteen-round debacle over electing a Speaker. They are forcing the entire Republican Party to walk the plank again.

These are also the members most insistent on proceeding with the Biden impeachment inquiry. I don’t necessarily object to the Biden impeachment category. Thus far, there’s a lot of evidence that makes Biden look bad but no hard proof of wrongdoing. It’s a lot of innuendo and circumstantial, or indirect, evidence that doesn’t necessarily prove anything but allows an inference to be drawn.

Shutting down the government is especially egregious because Americans are just starting to believe that Biden did something wrong and that impeachment is appropriate.

A Morning Consult poll released on Sept. 19, 2023, shows more voters support the current impeachment investigation than oppose it (48 percent support vs. 42 percent oppose), including Independents by a 47 percent to 36 percent margin.

If the government shuts down, the impeachment story gets knocked off the front page.

Although Democrats dismissed the inquiry, they set the bar for this standard when they impeached Trump over his phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelinski. Trump never actually proposed a quid pro quo, and Democrats never found anybody who either heard Trump demand or order a quid pro quo. They impeached him over what they inferred he meant.

Republicans hold less than a ten-seat majority in the House. A shutdown improves the odds that Democrats will regain control in 2024. Worse, the districts most likely to flip in 2024 don’t include the members hijacking the party. The likely outcome is when a smaller Republican Caucus gathers in 2025 for the 119th Congress. The members responsible for the Speaker debacle last January and the current dysfunction in spending will have more seniority and represent a higher percentage of the caucus.

In addition to the damage a government shutdown does to Republicans, it will knock the Biden Crime Family drama from the front pages. It’s an unforced error that shouldn’t happen. But ten days before a fourth government shutdown, it seems that about a dozen renegade House Republicans will cause the entire GOP to walk the plank — again. #Stupid.

Andy Bloom is President of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President of Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio). He can be reached by email at or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.

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