Republicans know that any government shutdown — partial shutdown as most of the government keeps chugging along during these circuses — will be blamed on them. That's a given with a Democrat corporate media framing the narrative. Given that, a government shutdown by the end of the weekend could be an opportunity to really accomplish something monumental.
The House Freedom Caucus negotiated with House leadership to get a Continuing Resolution with absolute cuts in spending — not cuts in future growth, but cuts in actual, real spending now. That in itself is an accomplishment even as an opening negotiating position with the Senate. But the newest Washington shibboleth remained untouched: There was a blank check for US financial and military involvement in the forever war in Ukraine while also requiring nothing change at our southern border. The meme that Washington elites care more about Ukraine's border than America's is stamped on that CR.
That seems to be the primary reason for up to a dozen members of the Freedom Caucus to decline to support the CR. Defunding or at least significantly capping American aid to Ukraine is becoming essential. The Biden administration has no stated goal in the war, no strategy for accomplishing the removal of the Russian army, if that's a goal, or an exit strategy from the bloodiest European conflict since WWII. They have said nothing about how to end the fighting that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides — with endless and expanding shipments of American weaponry.
Getting Congressional control of the funding of this undeclared American war is an imperative and worthy of a government shutdown.
The challenge is that there is quite a bit of establishment bi-partisan support for funding Ukraine. It was even evident again at the second Republican presidential debate when US Sen. Tim Scott, Nikkie Haley and Chris Christie were all in on giving Ukraine everything on its ever-increasing wish list with no discussion of actually ending the bloodshed, while people like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy want to see an end to the war.
The question for the dozen or so GOP holdouts on the CR is what is their plan for accomplishing this if Monday comes around and we have a government shutdown?
They will need to get the House leadership to coalesce around a Ukraine deal that limits our future outlays, and then persuade some Republican US Senators to side with them. There is already sympathy for their position.
US Sen. Roger Marshall tweeted Friday: "I am frustrated that we are hours away from the U.S. government shutting down, and the sticking point is whether we care more about Ukraine's security than America's security. While I can appreciate my colleagues' attempts to negotiate a deal with small conservative wins, we are trying to fit a square peg through a round hole. The House will not entertain the Senate's CR that gives more American taxpayer dollars to Ukraine."
The thing is, most Americans support both of these goals and frequently list them near the top of their most important issues after the economy.
A CNN poll from last month found that most Americans oppose Congress authorizing more money for Ukraine's war with Russia. Overall, 55 percent said Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine. This number has grown as the war drags on.
Support for securing the border is even more robust. Even super biased polling and "reporting" on an NPR/Ipsis poll in June found a clear majority of all Americans believe the US is experiencing an "invasion" at the southern border. And half believe that migrants bringing fentanyl and other illegal drugs over the southern border are responsible for the increases of overdoses in the U.S.
Both of those polls reflect others. Getting enough in the House and Senate onboard to accomplish this, even if it means smaller real cuts, should be possible. And if it were to happen, it would be more than worth the government shutdown. If these members of the Freedom Caucus can pull it off, it would immeasurably strengthen their position on future stand-offs.
However, on a note of reality, if they accomplish a government shutdown but then GOP moderates side with Democrats to re-open it with a terrible CR, then the shutdown is a net loss both politically and for the future influence of those in the Freedom Caucus.
The Freedom Caucus members have excelled as disruptors, but now they need to do something they have not been so successful at — creating enough unity through negotiations to get to majority votes. This is the hard work in the background, outside the bright and addictive lights of social media, trending clips and fundraising. But it is what will actually be required to make a government shutdown oh so worth it.
Rod Thomson is a former daily newspaper reporter and columnist, Salem radio host and ABC TV commentator, and current Founder of The Thomson Group, a Florida-based political consulting firm. He has eight children and seven grandchildren and a rapacious hunger to fight for America for them. Follow him on Twitter at @Rod_Thomson. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.