On Sunday, Stan Collender made the outlandish suggestion that the Republicans would move to shut down the government as early as this week. By Tuesday, Jim DeMint had begun to make that a reality:

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint warned Monday evening that he would block all legislation that has not been cleared by his office in the final days of the pre-election session.

Bret Bernhardt, DeMint’s chief of staff, said in an e-mail to GOP aides that his boss would place a hold on all legislation that has not been cleared by both parties by the end of the day Tuesday [...]

With the Senate slated to adjourn Thursday untiil after the elections, DeMint’s stance could mean trouble for Democrats if the two parties don’t quickly agree on a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating past Sept. 30. And that could mean the demise of a slew of other stalled and largely non-controversial bills that both parties are looking to clear before Election Day.

That stopgap spending measure is a continuing resolution, which has to get signed into law by midnight Thursday to ensure government operations, probably thru February. DeMint alone could force the Democrats to go through the cloture process, something they wouldn’t be able to finish in time for Thursday night if Republicans use all the rules at their disposal, particularly post-cloture time. This would also keep Democrats in both chambers (the House would have to sign off on anything that the Senate evenutally passed) in Washington well beyond the point they expected.

As Collender notes, there’s a risk for the GOP here, in getting blamed for a government shutdown. Obviously DeMint doesn’t care, and probably sees it as a base-rallying maneuver for his Tea Party movement.

The only way that DeMint would “sign off” on a quick solution here is probably with something like what Collender predicts:

What makes at least the consideration of a shutdown this week even more likely is that it could be over the same exact issues we’ve been assuming would precipitate a showdown next years. Republican senators can just as easily demand that the CR that will be considered this week include language prohibiting any funds from being used to promulgate regulations on health care and financial services, and that spending be at the 2008 rather than the 2010 level as they could next February. They could then use this to demonstrate they were serious out the Pledge to America released last week.

This is something Democrats probably wouldn’t have had to worry about if they planned ahead. As it is, they’ll either give in to DeMint’s demands, or get out of town a week late or more.

I hope the nonsense outsourcing bill and the doomed cloture vote on the DISCLOSE Act, both of which took up so much time in the past week, was worth it.

(By the way, these aren’t “secret” holds – DeMint’s doing this right out in the open. Only reforming the entire structure of the Senate rules, which empowers not just the minority but individual Senators to obstruct everything, will this evaporate.)

UPDATE: I’m looking at the rule on this via David Waldman, and the Democrats did think ahead a little, as they have set up the vote on the motion to proceed for the legislative vehicle carrying the continuing resolution today. Even if that passes, the Republicans could play out the string and ensure that the continuing resolution does not finish in time for Thursday night, but they could probably get it done by the weekend.

Ironically, the best thing for the Republicans to do if they really want to shut down the government today is to let the motion to proceed on the anti-outsourcing bill pass. Because then (and I’m not certain I have the procedural kinks right) the Democrats would have to waste more time filing cloture specifically on the CR.