A Republican Senate candidate suggested a government shutdown might be "absolutely necessary" if a budget impasse arises in the next two years.
GOP Utah Senate candidate Mike Lee raised the prospect of a shutdown reminiscent of the 1995 standoff between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
"It's an inconvenience, it would be frustrating to many, many people, and it's not a great thing. And yet, at the same time, it's not something that we can rule out," Lee said Thursday during an interview on NPR. "It may be absolutely necessary."
Lee's threat rises above the level of candidate bluster because he's seen as the likely victor on Nov. 2. If he were able to take office, Lee would conceivably have the power to filibuster any budget proposal, requiring 60 senators to vote to oppose him and move toward a final vote.
Lee's one of the few potential senators who could take office next year who have been fueled by the grassroots Tea Party movement. Republican candidate Ken Buck in Colorado has said he isn't interested in compromise, an ethos echoed in part by a slate of other conservative Republican candidates for Senate.
Other Republicans have been more dismissive of a government shutdown, fearing the negative political repercussions that the GOP had endured after the 1995 fight.
"I don't think the country needs or wants a shutdown," the second-ranking House Republican, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said in a recent debate that a shutdown could endanger troops abroad.
"Well, I think as long as you've got men and women deployed in harm's way in Afghanistan, the last thing in the world is you shut down the support system for those men and women," he said. "So I would not want to do that."