President Joe Biden’s hands-off approach to the looming government shutdown is intended to project an image of him executing key accomplishments while House Republicans fight over funding, according to White House officials. Biden’s strategy involves traveling across the country to promote his economic agenda, but a shutdown could disrupt these plans. The White House is now considering alternative ways to execute their “split-screen” strategy if events need to be postponed. While the White House is deeply concerned about the consequences of a debt default, they believe that Republicans are solely responsible for the current brinkmanship.
White House officials acknowledge that they do not want to see a shutdown, but some of Biden’s allies see a potential political advantage for him in this situation. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake believes that people would likely blame Republicans and Congress as a whole for a shutdown, thus enhancing Biden’s political standing. If a shutdown does occur, executive orders implemented by the Biden administration could still be seen as attempts to address the situation, and even if they are ultimately challenged in court, they would be perceived positively by the public. The impact on Republicans would be especially significant for swing-district lawmakers who have been calling for a quick resolution and criticizing their party’s right flank.
There is a difference in the White House’s approach to the potential shutdown compared to the debt limit crisis in May. The previous deal reached to avoid a debt default involved direct negotiations between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. However, the current appropriations fight involves more congressional stakeholders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is reluctant to see another prolonged shutdown that could affect GOP chances of regaining control of the Senate. This suggests that rather than a fight between the executive and legislative branches, the showdown could be between the House and the Senate, which would allow the White House to focus on promoting Biden’s agenda to voters.