Congress has packed its bags and gone home for the week, leaving lawmakers with just five legislative days to find a way to keep the Homeland Security Department open. Senate Democrats remain intractable in their filibuster of legislation to fund the department, just as House Republicans refuse to bring up a clean bill, leaving open the real possibility that Congress will allow part of the federal government to shut down for the second time in two years.
Republicans are banking on a very different reality this time around, and they've already offered glimpses of the arguments they'll deploy if Feb. 28 arrives without a funding deal.
DEMOCRATS WILL BE BLAMED.
During the last shutdown, a majority of Americans blamed the GOP and the party's approval rating fell to an all-time low of 22 percent in a Wall Street Journal poll at the end of October. But if the Homeland Security Department shuts down on Feb. 28, Republicans believe Democrats will get the blame.
"Well, the Democrats are filibustering. I don't know how we get blamed for that this time," Senate President Pro Tem Orrin Hatch said last week.
As Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois chillingly put it: "If they're cynically trying to restart the government shutdown battle, they should be blamed directly. It's a very dangerous game if we have a successful terrorist attack "¦ all the dead Americans from that should be laid at the feet of the Democratic caucus."