- “Virginia is second to No. 1 California in federal jobs, with 144,000, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. That’s more than half the federal workforce of metro D.C.”
- “‘If you’re a Republican, the last thing you want to see is a federal government shutdown in the midst of a legislative campaign or a congressional campaign,’ said former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, twice elected to the state’s No. 2 office after a decade as a state senator, representing a district anchored by increasingly suburban Hanover County, north of Richmond.”
- “‘These things generally play out to the detriment of Republicans, who are seen as the party of shutdowns.’”
- “…the GOP-run House appears paralyzed. Its most conservative Republicans, small in number but huge in influence because their votes determine whether Kevin McCarthy remains Speaker, want — as a condition for a stopgap spending bill — deep cuts, restrictions on Ukraine aid, tougher border controls and other proposals anathema to Democrats.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Schapiro: Shutdown threat in D.C. could upend Va. elections
September 8, 2023 | Jeff E. Schapiro
In the shouting match that is the fight for control of the Virginia legislature, Democrats and Republicans are settling into their respective poll-tested narratives: Democrats scream about abortion rights, more money for schools, abortion rights and abortion rights. Republicans scream about inflation, making schools more accountable, inflation and inflation.
Action in Washington, D.C. — make that, inaction — could force both sides from their scripts.
Another federal government shutdown — unless Congress and Joe Biden agree by Sept. 30 on a spending plan, if only one that keeps the lights on through Election Day, Nov. 7 — threatens to scramble races for the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate. And in the wrong places: toss-up districts, mostly in the suburbs, where Republicans often struggle.
Government and government-related jobs are abundant in a state that ranks 11th in federal aid per capita and where roughly 1 in 3 dollars flowing through the economy can be attributed to the bureaucratic behemoth on the south bank of the Potomac River.
Government workers, particularly numerous in Northern Virginia and defense-rich coastal Virginia, don’t care to have their livelihoods disrupted by the whims of politicians. Virginia is second to No. 1 California in federal jobs, with 144,000, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. That’s more than half the federal workforce of metro D.C.
“It sure as heck doesn’t make sense for the commonwealth of Virginia,” U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, said of a shutdown — something he flirted with at the state level as governor during a 2004 standoff with General Assembly Republicans that ended with passage of his $1.4 billion tax increase. “We’ve all seen this movie too many times.”
Democrat Tim Kaine, the state’s junior senator and up for a third term next year, is keeping an eye out for federal employees — if only as a voting bloc — by introducing legislation to prohibit shutdowns by, in effect, extending the just-lapsed spending plan. It complements an earlier measure that became law, requiring back pay for shutdown-idled workers.
A Republican who’s run and won in the suburbs — when they were safe for the GOP — says that a shutdown is perilous for his party because it calls into question what, historically for Republicans, were some of their most potent talking points: Disciplined spending, steady management and keeping government lean.
“If you’re a Republican, the last thing you want to see is a federal government shutdown in the midst of a legislative campaign or a congressional campaign,” said former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, twice elected to the state’s No. 2 office after a decade as a state senator, representing a district anchored by increasingly suburban Hanover County, north of Richmond.
“These things generally play out to the detriment of Republicans, who are seen as the party of shutdowns.”
This go-around, the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate seems a picture of bipartisan harmony, with Democrats and Republicans slogging together through appropriations bills, mindful of the approaching deadline, Sept. 30, the final day of the federal budget year, when — technically — Washington runs out of money to stay open.
In contrast, the GOP-run House appears paralyzed. Its most conservative Republicans, small in number but huge in influence because their votes determine whether Kevin McCarthy remains Speaker, want — as a condition for a stopgap spending bill — deep cuts, restrictions on Ukraine aid, tougher border controls and other proposals anathema to Democrats.
Three of the five Republicans in Virginia’s U.S. House delegation — Ben Cline, Bob Good and Morgan Griffith — are members of the far-right Freedom Caucus, which is pushing these sharply contentious ideas. The mega-MAGA Good said earlier this summer Republicans shouldn’t fear a shutdown; that most voters wouldn’t even notice it.
Cline, no dove when it comes to government spending — an image he initially burnished as a state legislator — struck a more conciliatory note Friday, saying by text, “We are all working toward getting an agreement on spending before Oct. 1.” Cline offered no details for averting a shutdown.
Another Virginia Republican — one more moderate — is Rob Wittman, who, as vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, knows better than most the practical and political value of keeping federal funds flowing to the state. Virginia, home of the Pentagon, is first among the states in military spending,according to the U.S. Defense Department.
In an email, Wittman didn’t as much address the shutdown threat as he did Congress’ responsibility to complete the required 12 appropriations bills; he hopes by December. “I stand ready to ... stay in Washington until our job is done,” said Wittman, describing the budget process as “broken.”
We’ve seen the electoral consequences of this before on the statewide level — and they were disastrous for the GOP. In 2013, Terry McAuliffe, elected governor by plurality — which hadn’t happened in 48 years — led the first Democratic sweep since 1989. It might not have occurred had D.C. not closed for 16 days in October, reopening three weeks before the election.
But McAuliffe nearly blew it, buffeted by voter fury over a problem directly attributed to Barack Obama: The botched rollout of the website on which Americans could shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Republican Ken Cuccinelli used that to harness doubts about Obama, in particular, and Democrats, in general.
Another shutdown — the longest ever, running 35 days from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019 — dragged on during Donald Trump’s presidency. It was another strike against Trump in Virginia, a state he would lose twice. In the 2019 legislative midterm elections, Democrats — then holding the governorship — restored full control of the House of Delegates and state Senate.
What followed was not pretty.
Democrats’ reaction — Republicans would say overreaction — to the coronavirus pandemic, George Floyd, racial equity, restrictions on firearms and easing voting access, not to mention Biden’s rising disapproval rate attributed to economic insecurity, contributed to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s win in 2021 and a GOP take-back of the House.
Two years on, Youngkin is spending millions of dollars and hundreds of hours aiming to protect a Republican majority in the House and extend it to the Senate. During the Labor Day weekend kickoff, at a stop in Southside Virginia, he seemed to talk himself hoarse with a script that hit plenty of hot buttons, except one: a government shutdown.
Youngkin’s press office failed to respond to a text asking whether the boss was concerned about a shutdown; whether he’s pressing Congress if only for a temporary spending plan to minimize damage to the state’s economy and if he’d considered the implications of a shutdown for the General Assembly elections.
The silence speaks volumes.