In a fascinating interview with the National Review, Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller said that in a private conversation with Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader expressed openness to the idea of a government shutdown.
"There was a comment made at breakfast this morning about shutting down the government, and he reacted in a positive way," Miller told the Review's Robert Costa. "I'm not going to quote him, but I think that he recognizes that that's on the table."
A spokesman for McConnell's office said he could not attest to the anecdote's veracity as he was not in the private meeting.
"I don't know what reacting in a positive way means or what the comment was," said the spokesman. "So it's tough for me to hypothesize on it."
Miller has pushed the idea of shutting down the government as a means of forcing the president's hand on a host of legislative matters. The primary battle will likely occur over repealing health care reform. Should a Republican-led Congress pass a budget that defunds the law, the president would either have to sign or veto the measure. Sans budget, the government could come to a halt, much like it did under the Newt Gingrich-led House during the Clinton administration.
"We can do things that don't require his cooperation," Miller told the National Review. "That's what it has to be. Defunding agencies in a targeted fashion, particularly where agencies are aggressively acting against economic interests of the country, be it resource development, business, or otherwise. There are things that need to be cut -- low-hanging fruit. With Obamacare, we ultimately want to see it repealed, but we are not going to get the two-thirds vote to do that."
UDPATE: McConnell spokesman Don Stewart says that McConnell "has not called for shutting down the government. What he has noted is that Republicans are united in their view that the government spends too much, taxes too much and has too much debt--and that Republicans are equally united in doing all we can to restore fiscal sanity to Washington. Sen. McConnell believes we have made a good first step by forcing the majority to accept reduced spending in next year's appropriations bills, but we have much more work to do in order reverse the trend of massive growth in government we have seen under Democratic Control in Congress. We can get there without shutting down the government, but it will require Democrats to join our effort."