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Let’s get ontological.

The prevailing question on Capitol Hill Thursday was not whether the federal government would shut down at midnight on Friday — most people seem to believe it will — but who is going to take the blame for it.

Democrats say that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House — of course it’s their fault if they can’t keep the government open. Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Democrats of withholding their needed votes in the Senate in order to press for a resolution to the impasse in the immigration debate, even at the expense of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

It’s a question with a few layers — including ontology, political metaphysics, and interpretation. Even as a matter of pure procedure, there are no easy answers.

“It’s an interesting question, but I don’t think it’s really answerable as a procedural matter,” Sarah Binder, who has studied congressional procedure at George Washington University, told me by email. “‘Shutting down the government’ means of course failure to act. And there are lots of veto points within Congress and between the branches making it difficult to say who per se would be shutting down the government.”

But we can say this: Right now, it’s not at all clear whether Republicans have the votes within their own conference that would keep the government open. Until they do, it would be harder to put the blame entirely on Democrats. But Democrats have made clear that they are indeed willing to shut down the government — and their rationale can be traced back to that infamous White House “shithole” meeting.

The government shutdown scenarios — and who should get the blame

Republicans look to have averted the most embarrassing shutdown scenario: the House failing to pass a spending bill. Given that a bare majority can move a Read More Here