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Contrary to 2005, Pawlenty sees government shutdown as a viable option

Tim Pawlenty told ThinkProgress on Saturday that shutting down the federal government is “an option I think Republicans have to consider.” It’s far different rhetoric than what the then-governor offered in 2005 when a budget standoff with the DFL led to the Minnesota’s first and only government shutdown. He said that the shutdown on his watch didn’t have a big impact on the state, but before it happened he warned it’d wreak “havoc” and be “unsettling and unfortunate and inconvenient and problematic” for thousands of Minnesotans. Further, a strategy he now sees as an option for the GOP he characterized as a “cynical political strategy” by the DFL in 2005 — and one that would have effects “far in the future.”

Pawlenty spoke with ThinkProgress at the Tea Party Patriots Policy Summit in Arizona on Saturday. Pawlenty has previously said he didn’t let the Minnesota shutdown go long enough.

Here’s the transcript:

KEYES: Governor, you said one of your biggest regrets as governor was not allowing the shutdown in Minnesota to last longer. Would you have that same advice for Republicans in Congress as they face a potential shutdown?

PAWLENTY: I know these shutdowns always seem like they loom large, but in Minnesota, six months after, a year after, people looked back on it and could say, “it really didn’t have that big of a traumatic or dramatic negative impact on the state.”

KEYES: And that’s how you think it would be at a federal level?

PAWLENTY: These are hard to predict so we don’t know for sure, but a week-long or month-long or whatever it would turn out to be disruption isn’t the main point. The main point is we have a country that’s in deep trouble. We’ve got to get back to certain principles and responsibilities and starting with getting the budget balanced and if it takes a dramatic moment or a dramatic week or a dramatic month, those kinds of line-in-the-sand moments are what we need to get politicians back up against the wall and have them make the tough decisions. They all talk about making the tough decisions and never do.

KEYES: So you would support a shutdown if it comes down to it?

PAWLENTY: If it came down to it and it was between that and not getting the budget headed in the right direction, that’s an option I think Republicans have to consider.

While Pawlenty now says the 2005 shutdown could have gone longer and that it really didn’t have much of an impact on Minnesota, his rhetoric was much different in 2005.

On June 15, 2005, Pawlenty said of the impending shutdown, according to the AP: “Minnesotans need to hear about and understand the real human impacts if state government shuts down. State parks will close, rest areas will be boarded up, and new drivers licenses won’t be issued. More than 15,000 state employees — hardworking, dedicated people — will essentially be locked out of their jobs.”

“Anyone who considers the negative impacts of a shutdown should see it as a reason to seriously get back to the negotiating table.”

“June is halfway over,” Pawlenty said at the time. “Minnesotans are heading to the cabin and taking family vacations. They expect their elected officials to show leadership and get the job done without wreaking havoc on state employees and government services. I’m willing to make sure that we take care of government’s core functions, but the cost and impact of a shutdown would be felt far into the future.”

“We have a limited window to get this done the right way,” he concluded. “I’ve been willing to compromise and lead. I hope that the Senate DFL won’t lock state employees out of their jobs and hamper state government over their desire to give us the highest income tax rate in the nation.”

On June 16, 2005, he said, according to the Pioneer Press, “I think they have concluded a shutdown would be good. It’s a political strategy, it’s a cynical strategy.”

In announcing plans for the partial shutdown, Pawlenty said: “This would represent not just an inconvenience to Minnesotans but a real challenge and concern, and rightfully so.”

“They would rather do nothing than have to compromise in my direction,” Pawlenty said. “They’ve concluded that a shutdown would be a good political strategy.”

On June 27, 2005: “We are at the doorstep of a partial government shutdown. It would be very unsettling and unfortunate and inconvenient and problematic to thousands and thousands of Minnesotans and their families.”

On June 30, 2005, when the DFL adjourned on the last day of the special session without a budget deal with Pawlenty, he told the AP that “Democrats want a government shutdown to embarrass him in the run-up to his 2006 re-election campaign.”

“The Democrats turned and left tonight when Minnesota needed them most,” Pawlenty said at a news conference. “It is an example of irresponsible and bizarre behavior, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before.”

“I am stunned by the naked cynicism of the Democratic strategy,” Pawlenty said. “When it came to crunch time, they left.”

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