Public's anger could be the quickest way to end shutdown, Harvard's Grayson says

10/01/2013 10:07 PM

Perhaps the quickest way to end the shutdown of the federal government that began Tuesday is for the American people to express the frustration that already is showing up in polls, said Trey Grayson, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics.

Grayson, the former Kentucky secretary of state, said he considers the shutdown the fault of all sides but conceded Republicans seem to be taking the bulk of the blame. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed that more Americans blamed congressional Republicans for the shutdown (63 percent) than Democrats (56 percent) or President Obama (50 percent).

Grayson said Congress has shown it can take direction from public outrage — for instance, the unpopularity of potential military action in Syria.

“Rather than just the partisans engaging, let’s burn up those phone lines and the Internet and let everybody know we’re upset with this and get a continuing resolution passed and get back to business,” Grayson said (3:30 of the interview).

Grayson said it’s conceivable, though, that the shutdown could last a week or two as congressional leaders, including Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, not only negotiate how to fund the government but whether to raise the debt ceiling. The government’s money dries up Oct. 17 unless it can borrow more, the Obama administration has said.

“To me the most likely scenario is that the two situations — the continuing resolution to the budget or shutdown issue and the raising the debt ceiling — get wrapped in together,” Grayson said (7:45).

McConnell will likely play a big role in a resolution, Grayson said, even though he and other congressional leaders have seen their influence diluted as vocal groups have gained more power, including the tea party and special interest groups that have engaged in elections.

“He is much weaker than he might have been 10 or 15 years ago,” Grayson said of McConnell, the Senate GOP leader. “He certainly does have influence. And yesterday he did try sort of a Hail Mary,” Grayson added, referring to McConnell’s pitch to fund the government for an extra week to buy more negotiating time.

Grayson said the impasse represents “uncharted territory” in the sense that the Republicans have risked cutting off funding to the government in order to block the implementation of law even after an election cycle in which that law was a key issue. At the same time, Grayson said the sweeping nature of the Affordable Care Act and the lack of any Republican votes for its passage in 2010 make it all a “unique situation.”

“The law’s not really ready for prime time right now,” he said (2:30). “Everybody can agree on that. But the politics are so tricky, where Republicans want it all gone. And Democrats, I think, are fearful that if they pass a law to try to fix some of these things, that might open up Pandora’s Box and cause the whole thing to come undone.”


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