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When the Markets React, Will House Republicans Retreat?

University of Mary Washington Professor Stephen Farnsworth says the length of the shutdown depends on the markets.

Dr. Stephen Farnsworth.  Photo provided by UMW.
Dr. Stephen Farnsworth. Photo provided by UMW.
How long will the government shutdown last? That will depend on how the markets on Wall Street react. 

That's the opinion of Stephen Farnsworth, University of Mary Washington professor of Political Science and International Affairs and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

"Wall Street was really troubled by the shutdown in 1996, and it forced the Republicans to recapitulate," he said. "Depending on how the markets react to this shutdown, Republicans may make a hasty retreat," he said.

"House Republicans opposed to the government's continued operation represent districts which have been gerrymandered to the extreme," Farnsworth said.  "These Republicans are doing what would make their constituents happy," he said. 

The reason Republicans in the House are having such an awful time convincing Senate Republicans to go along is Senators are not susceptible to gerrymandering since they represent entire states.

"So even though the Republicans will suffer more in the polls than Obama or the Democrats, in the court of public opinion, these individuals are doing what makes sense in those individual districts," he said.

A powerful negative reaction on Wall Street could change things. "Many of the people in the Tea Party are close to retirement age and are very worked-up about their pensions," Farnsworth said.

Republicans in the House could capitulate as early as today, Farnsworth said, pass a temporary spending measure and fight this fight again in two to three weeks.  But it will probably last longer, he said.

"This has been two years in the making," Farnsworth said.  "This did not happen at once and it's not going to be fixed at once," he said.

"This is no way to run a government," he said.  "A government which cannot keep its lights on will not be seen by Iran or Syria as a credible threat," he said.

"I think President Obama has been very effective in presenting himself the last six years as a sensible and reasonable person," Farnsworth said.  Due to objections from the Republicans, for example, the president reduced the size of the stimulus, Farnsworth said.

In addition, Obama dropped the public option to the health care bill in response to Republican objections -- even though the law had been upheld by the Supreme Court.

"I think Obama is a little tired of playing rub-a-dub with the House Republicans,"  Farnsworth said.  "Since he is in his second term, since he was reelected, he is in a very strong position to call the Republicans' bluff on the government shutdown."

Farnsworth said constituents should contact their lawmakers and tell them what they think, and vote at the next election for or against the way those in elected office are handling this.

"Elected officials are picking us," Farnsworth said.  "It's the exact opposite of what the founders intended," he said.  "We [the voters] are supposed to be picking them," he said.

"Representative government gives elected officials a wide latitude to do what they see fit, as long as they are far enough away from the next election or the strictest gerrymandering," he said.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell talked about ending partisan redistricting strategies in the Commonwealth, similar to that accomplished in Iowa and California.  "McDonnell proposed the idea to the legislature, but it didn't get far," Farnsworth said. 

Why not in Virginia? "Different political cultures have different political will," Farnsworth said.

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Bryce Thorpe October 02, 2013 at 08:35 AM
I have not heard any Republicans opposed to "the government's continued operation". I have heard Republicans who think government should spend responsibly. Certainly there are conservatives who believe we passed this healthcare law hastily and without having read it. That is supported by the evidence since the more Americans learn about the law, the more they oppose it. Does it strike the professor as strange that Democrats refused a proposal to fund ACA as it was passed in the congress? Instead, they want to see it funded, without debate, as amended unilaterally by the President. Everything we fund is statutory. Why would the professor, or other liberals, think the ACA should be exempt from budget considerations; especially in light of the changes made by the President to provide exemptions to those who line his campaign coffers and others in his favor. There has been no good news relating to this law. The number of folks covered compared to the number the President said would be covered...lower. The cost for ACA compared to the President's estimates...way higher. Employers paring back hours to get employees below 30 hours...higher. If you like your current plan, you can keep it...not happening for many folks. Everything has been worse than estimated and, even when estimated, we had to compare 10 years of revenue against 8 years of spending to get it "balanced". The professor seems to hold an incredibly cynical view of conservatives and a very loose grasp of the facts surrounding the ACA. Perhaps in the halls of academia the professor seldom encounters people who act on principle.

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