Who instigated the shutdown?

An interesting side-note to my story about U.S. Senate candidates on the shutdown deal was a difference on one of the fundamental points of fact: which party (or both equally) was the primary actor in causing the shutdown?

That’s not the same thing as saying who was WRONG. You can believe that Democrats or Republicans started the shutdown — and were right to do it.

Rick Weiland, the Democrat, has been clear all along. He believes that Republicans started the shutdown, and were wrong to do it.

Annette Bosworth was of the opinion that Republicans started the shutdown, and were right to do it — and that they gave up too early.

"There needs to be change. That’s what the whole crisis was about, to create change," Bosworth said. "Why would you create a crisis like a government shutdown if your answers were simply to put another band-aid on it for another 6 months?"

Mike Rounds also said Republicans had started the shutdown. He said it was a good idea at first, but that the party persisted too long after “it became clear it wasn’t going to work.”

"I don’t think that Republicans helped themselves when they went beyond a reasonable symbolic vote on Obamacare and continued to contend they could eliminate Obamacare on the continuing resolution," Rounds said. "It was not a wise decision for the party to continue it once they had cast their symbolic vote. Once they saw that the votes were not there, then they had to take a different tack."

Stace Nelson, on the other hand, said Democrats were the one who shut the government down, and that they were wrong to do so.

"For the fact that Democrats held our country hostage over Obamacare… that is a failure on their part," Nelson said. "They played politics on this."

When asked if he felt the shutdown was worth it for Republicans given how it ended, Nelson said he rejects “the premise” that both parties were “equally responsible.” He added that “if it were Republicans doing this, it would be no less a failure of leadership.”

The root of the shutdown, again, was the government funding bill. House Republicans passed it and added language defunding the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats amended the bill to remove the defunding clause and passed the “clean” version.

Who was the instigator would seem to depend on which should be considered the “default” spending bill: one that funds the ACA, or one that doesn’t? If the default is a funding bill that funds everything, then Republicans instigated the shutdown — many would insist, for worthy purposes (trying to get rid of a law they think is devastating). If the default is a bill that funds everything except the controversial health care law, then Democrats instigated the shutdown by insisting on adding that funding in — again, many would insist, for worthy purposes (defending a law they think will transform health care for the better).

Larry Rhoden, by the way, didn’t lean one way or the other in his interview with me. This wasn’t a subject I pressed the candidates on, simply one that most of them brought up on their own.