Political strategist Karl Rove warned Republicans Thursday in strong terms that it would be a big mistake to shut down the government over budget disagreements with President Barack Obama.
"It's an iron law," he said, "that Republicans get blamed for any government shutdown, no matter who controls the White House or Congress."
Writing in The Wall Street Journal
, Rove urged GOP lawmakers not to "overreach" in their efforts to curb government spending and prevent another increase in the national debt limit.
"For congressional Republicans, the challenge is to keep the upper hand provided by their strategy of passing continuing resolutions at current levels to fund the government," the Republican strategist wrote in his weekly column.
In this year's budget battle, Obama has requested more than $1 trillion in discretionary outlays for fiscal 2014, $91 billion more than is permitted under the 2011 budget agreement, Rove noted in his piece, adding that Republicans want to hold the line on spending at $967 billion.
"Spending disputes," he said, "almost always work to the advantage of Republicans, since Americans believe there's plenty of waste in Washington."
Rove cited a Feb. 18 Pew Research Center/USA Today poll to back up that observation. The survey found that 54 percent of Americans believe the government should focus "mostly on spending cuts," while only 16 percent think the emphasis should be "mostly on tax increases."
He said Obama claims to be a deficit hawk, but under his administration the deficit "is still a larger share of the economy than in 62 of the last 68 years since World War II."
That reality, Rove suggested, may force Obama to accept more spending cuts in return for a borrowing increase on the debt, despite the fact that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the president will not negotiate with Congress on the debt limit.
"Mr. Obama understands he may be stuck taking further spending restraint in return for an increase in the limit on federal borrowing," Rove said.
Adding to Obama's problem, Rove continued, is the fact that his approval ratings on his handling of the economy are continuing to drop. As his approval falls, the Democrats' hopes of retaking the House and holding the Senate in next year's midterm elections will also suffer.
So Republicans, Rove stressed, must resist any attempt by Obama to turn the tables by "baiting" them into forcing a government shutdown.
"Mr. Obama is baiting Republicans to overplay their hand by forcing a government shutdown or failing to offer a constructive conservative agenda," Rove writes. "He must change the dynamic, or face Republican control of the House and Senate his last two years in office."
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