Grover Norquist, leader of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, suggested a high-stakes approach to tackling the issue of federal spending Thursday, saying that the GOP must be willing to go as far as to shut down the government in their pursuit of debt and deficit reduction.
Norquist painted the recent elections as a referendum on the "Obama spendathon," and said that battling budgets is exactly "what people were sent to Washington to do" in a recent interview with Politico in which he expressed his belief that bringing federal proceedings to a standstill during an upcoming showdown on taxes and spending could benefit the GOP.
"That's what all the freshmen are going to do. That's what the fight's going to be about," Norquist told Politico of the GOP's new plans to force President Obama to consider large spending cuts. The president "will be less popular if -- in the service of overspending and wasting people's money -- he closes the government down, as opposed to now, when he's just wasting people's money."
If Republicans take Norquist's advice, it could soon become a relevant worry.
Politico explains the potentially high stakes:
A confrontation could come earlier in the next Congress than most would expect. Treasury Department officials have said they will need Congress to raise the debt limit sometime in the first six months of next year. If Congress doesn't do that, it would result in a shuttering of federal offices since the government wouldn't have the authority to borrow money needed to cover the additional costs.
The issue of a government shutdown, like the one forced by legislative gridlock in 1995, has been a hot topic of late with the likelihood of forthcoming disputes between the White House and Capitol Hill.
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson cautioned against such a brazen move last month, saying that it could potentially endanger U.S. troops abroad, while incoming Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) described such an action as a viable measure to take in order to address the issue of spending.
And others, like White House debt commissioner Alan Simpson, who recently claimed that "Norquist will be irrelevant in a year," think that this brand of rhetoric is overzealous.
But Norquist maintains that a shutdown is within the realm of possibility and -- unlike in 1995 -- could serve Republicans well.
"There's now a Fox television network. There's now the Internet, in a way there wasn't back then. So ... when Bill Clinton vetoed the budget and closed the government, saying the Republicans had closed the government, ... [that] is not something you could sell again," Norquist told Politico.
Furthermore, Norquist claimed, the new Republican leadership would be better at messaging the action.
"It was able to be sold the first time because everybody thought Gingrich was running the entire country because of the way the coverage [of him] had gone and because Gingrich acted as if he was running the country. Boehner's not going to do that," Norquist said. Politico's full story has more.
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