Polls: Voters Would Blame Dems for Fed Shutdown

Monday, 28 Feb 2011 01:33 PM

By David A. Patten

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Two new polls indicate voters strongly support GOP efforts to rein in the federal deficit, and would blame Democrats rather than Republicans if the current impasse over spending cuts leads to a temporary shutdown in federal operations.

A Rasmussen report Monday showed that by a 58 to 33 percent poll,government,shutdown,blamemargin, voters prefer a partial shutdown if that’s what it takes to achieve reductions in federal spending. And a Public Opinion Research poll for The Hill.com shows that by a 29 to 23 percent margin, voters would blame Democrats rather than Republicans if a shutdown happens.

“The results are surprising because most people blamed the GOP for the last government shutdown, which occurred during President Clinton’s first term,” TheHill.com reported.

Even more noteworthy in The Hill survey was the GOP edge among the independent voters, who typically decide the outcome of political races. By a 34 to 19 percent margin, independents say they would blame Democrats over Republicans, if Congress can’t agree on spending cuts in return for a continuation of federal spending.

Those surveys may help explain the recent Democratic openness to approving $4 billion in spending reductions, in return for a continuing resolution to extend the funding of government operations. The polls suggest that if Democrats force a shutdown in an effort to embarrass Republicans politically, they would be on shaky political ground.

Because the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress opted not to approve a politically sensitive federal budget prior to November’s midterm elections, the federal government has been operating off of a series of “continuing resolutions” that extend the flow of cash to fund government operations. The current continuing resolution ends at midnight on Friday.

Most analysts expect Congress later this week to approve a brief extension of the current continuing resolution, which would give congressional leaders a few more weeks to work out a longer-term deal. In return, Democrats will agree to $4 billion in spending cuts that President Barack Obama already proposed for 2012.

An even bigger debate, however, is looming over what to do when the federal government reaches its authorized debt ceiling of $14.29 trillion, as is expected to occur in April or May.

Experts say the debt ceiling, the current legal limit on how much the Treasury Department is permitted to borrow to fund government operations, must be raised by May 31, and possibly sooner, in order to avoid a disruption in some government activities.

According to The Hill poll, a congressional game of chicken over a government shutdown would hold serious political risks both parties. Forty-three percent of voters, a large plurality, say they would blame both Republicans and Democrats, if there is an interruption in federal funding.

Republicans, led by tea-party conservatives, have refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to corresponding cuts in future spending.

Another indication that voters are losing their patience with Washington’s big spending ways: Rasmussen reports that just 27 percent of voters say 2011 spending should continue at 2010 levels.

An overwhelming 61 percent of voters say they want to see that spending reduced.

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