Members of the Republican Conference say they don't want the confrontation over government funding to come down to a government shutdown, but many don't see how, even if that does happen, they could lose politically.
When asked whether there could be political ramifications for Republicans if they tangled with Obama over the budget and it resulted in a government shutdown, conservative Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, smiled.
"Mean like a larger majority in the House or maybe a Republican majority in the Senate?" he said. "The voters reward us for keeping our oath of office."
The Republican Party has weathered government shutdowns before and come out on the other side without paying an electoral price. Between 1995 and 1996, Gingrich led his conference through 27 days of government shutdown. More than 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, national parks were closed, and veteran services were cut. The result? At first, blistering polls revealed that the Republican Party received the share of the blame, and the GOP's popularity plummeted. Less than a year later, however, during the 1996 election, Republicans gained seats in the Senate, and the party's losses in the House of Representatives were minimal, in the single digits. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole did, however, lose his White House bid, but Republicans kept control of Congress, and over the next two years worked with President Clinton to pass balanced budgets.
The narrative of the 2013 government shutdown over Obama's Affordable Care Act follows a similar trajectory. Initially, support for the Republican Party shrunk to almost the smallest margin in history. At the polls one year later, however, voters elected a stronger House majority and helped the GOP regain control of the Senate.
"It wasn't the electoral catastrophe that people predicted," said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who still argues that it's not the best course of action.
Republicans of all stripes agree it's preferable to avoid a government shutdown altogether, but some say the key to winning the shutdown fight at the ballot box is spinning the right message.
"If the president is overstepping his bounds and doing illegal acts like usurping legislative authority on the immigration issue, which would be a violation of law, he should be held accountable. If the only way to achieve that is to use the power of the purse, then that is what you've got to do," says Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. "I think the vast majority of people don't want tens of millions of illegals invading our country with the help of the president of the United States, and they're very happy we are trying to stop that invasion."
Still, some outside Capitol Hill argue that a government shutdown would hurt the Republican brand in a bigger way that goes beyond the next election. With a new Republican majority in the Senate, this is a new opportunity for the party to prove it can govern. A government shutdown right off the bat could undermine the new Republican majority's chances to improve the party's image and distract from the GOP's own legislative agenda.