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Boston College Expert: Government Shutdown


David Hopkins is an expert on the American political parties and elections and the US Congress. He is co-author of Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics.

Office: 617-552-6029; cell: 510-384-3630; E-mail:

David Hopkins

“It may not be what’s smart for their party collectively but it’s pretty smart for their own political interests,” says Boston College Assistant Political Science Professor David Hopkins.  “A lot of these Republicans are not losing their seats to a Democrat in the general election because they are in very conservative districts. From their point of view, they are more vulnerable in a primary election if they are perceived as not listening to the conservative movement.”

And that’s the main reason roughly two dozen lawmakers are committed to their positions, providing just enough votes to defeat any move in the Republican controlled House to compromise over the insistence the Affordable Care Act be defunded in exchange for funding government operations. 

“Once the conservative movement made defunding Obamacare the key issue, there was some risk in standing up to that,” says Hopkins, a Congressional scholar. “They believe the Affordable Care Act is unpopular and Americans would welcome the chance to delay it or get rid of it, and that they would be willing to undergo or experience a shutdown in exchange for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.”

With the White House and Democrats showing no signs of bending, some House Republicans are beginning to rethink this “all or nothing strategy” that has led to the first government shutdown in nearly 18 years.

“A lot of Republicans thought they could get something out of Obama, that they would get to the end, near a government shutdown, and get the concessions they wanted,” says Hopkins, author of the recent article, “The Political Geography of Party Resurgence.” “It’s a rational strategy to follow: ‘We’ve done this before, we’ve gotten this stuff before. Democrats have said they won’t give in but why should we believe them this time? The Democrats will at least give us some sort of concession that we can declare victory on.’”

But that has yet to happen, putting House Speaker John Boehner in what seems to be a no-win position.

“Boehner didn’t want a shutdown and he really didn’t want the Affordable Care Act to be the bargaining chip in the government shutdown because he knew that was a non-starter in the Senate all along,” says Hopkins. “He was there in ’95 - he has that experience and understands the risk the party takes on by forcing a shutdown. At the same time he is trying to contain his own position as leader. But the will of his caucus was to do it this way. Boehner is very vulnerable in his own party such that bringing up a bill that passes with no concession to certain Republican positions puts him a tough position. The minority of the party has a lot of leverage here.”



Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html



Sean Hennessey
Boston College News & Public Affairs
Office: 617-552-3630
Cell: (510) 384-3630