Polls give both sides ammunition in shutdown fight
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the clock ticking down toward a possible government shutdown over a bitter partisan battle over the new health care law, both sides appear to be digging in.
In this dangerous game of political chicken, public opinion could be crucial, and right now polls suggest both the White House and congressional Republicans have numbers on their side to bolster their arguments--while more Americans would blame a shutdown and its consequences on Republicans, the president's Affordable Care Act--better known as Obamacare--is becoming less popular.
Some conservative lawmakers, backed by tea party and other grassroots conservative groups, are using the budget battle as leverage, vowing to oppose any measure that provides funding for the federal government from including money for the health care law. A shutdown of the government would kick in if Congress doesn't hammer out a new spending plan by the beginning of next month, which is the start of the new federal budget year.
House Speaker John Boehner and fellow House Republican leaders unveiled a new plan on Wednesday that would tie a vote to defund Obamacare to a vote to temporarily continue to fund the government.
"We're going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president's failed health care law," Boehner said.
The budget battle comes as the White House and congressional Republicans also appear to be headed towards a showdown over raising the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit, which the country could hit sometime between mid-October and early November. If conservatives fail to defund Obamacare in budget negotiations, the debt ceiling talks would provide them a second opportunity.
President Barack Obama blamed an "ideological faction" of the GOP for the "ideological fight." Obama told some 100 CEO's at a gathering Wednesday that while he's open to negotiating on the budget, "what I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy.It's irresponsible."
The fiscal fight is beginning to register with Americans. According to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted earlier this month, if a government shutdown lasted only a few days, 11% of Americans think that would cause a crisis and another 38% forecast major problems.
But if a shutdown lasted a few weeks, the number who think the country would face a crisis rises from 11% to 31%, and the number who believe major problems would result increases a bit to 43%.
So who would get the blame?
Only a third would consider the president responsible for a shutdown, with 51% pointing a finger at Republicans in Congress, up from 40% who felt that way in March, the last time both sides were at loggerheads.
"The difference between March and September is due to independents," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "In the spring, only 36% of independents said the congressional Republicans would be responsible for a shutdown, while 40% felt that way about President Obama. Now, 53% of independents point the finger at the GOP and only a third say that Obama would be primarily responsible for a shutdown."
It's a similar story with the fight over extending the nation's borrowing limit.
Seventeen percent of those polled say failure to extend the debt ceiling would cause a crisis, with another 45% forecasting major problems for the country. The poll indicates a quarter would blame the president if the debt ceiling were not raised, with 54% holding congressional Republicans responsible.
While polling appears to favor the White House, new numbers also suggest that the 2010 health care law is dropping in popularity.
In January 51% of those polled by CNN/ORC said they favored all or most of the provisions in the new law. Now that figure is down to 39%. Support has dropped in virtually all demographic categories, but it has fallen the farthest among two core Democratic groups - women and Americans who make less than $50,000.
"Those are also the two groups that are most likely to pay attention to health insurance issues, and possibly the ones most likely to be affected by any changes," adds Holland. "Change is often scary - even change that promises to bring long-term benefits - and it may not be surprising that Americans are getting a case of cold feet as these new policies start to kick in."
Other new surveys indicate that many Americans don't think the new law will benefit them. Only 12% of those questioned in a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted earlier this month said the measure would positively impact them, with three in ten saying there would be a negative impact and more than half saying the law wouldn't make much of an impact. A USA Today/Pew Research Center survey conducted at the same time had similar results.
And only a minority in both surveys said they had a good understanding of the law.