Risking a Government Shutdown

Sep 23, 2013

Republicans in Virginia are willing to risk a government shutdown in order to defund so-called Obamacare, while others say the strategy will backfire.

It’s no secret congressional Republicans hate Obamacare. They’ve cast more than forty votes to either repeal, dismantle or defund the law, which was upheld by the Supreme Court. But with government funding running out some conservatives say the party has new leverage to make a stand and cut off the health law’s resources, which is why House Republicans, along with two Democrats, voted on Friday to fund the government while defunding the health law. That threatens a government shutdown because Democrats control the White House and Senate.

Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith says now the ball is in the Senate's court.  “It will be the Senate call and the question is, are the conservative leaders in the Senate willing to make that fight? They’re the ones who ultimately have the ability to make that fight. We don’t control the Senate.”
Griffith says he’s ready to toss his support behind any Senate Republicans who play hard ball.

“That’s a very tough vote, obviously it’s something that you don’t want to do. And that’s why I have to wait and see what happens in the Senate. Certainly will support my Senate collogues if that’s the decision that they make and they make the fight to defund ObamaCare and make this the battle.”

Virginia Republican Congressman Rob Wittman wasn’t in Congress during the government shutdown in the nineties. But he felt its impact from his perch as the mayor of Montross. Wittman says shutting down the government would be terrible.  “And it didn’t take long. Initially it starts out slow but boy it builds steam really quickly. And I heard from a lot of folks back then about what the impacts were going to be.

They were concerned about the impact on the state economically. On local governments economically. So it was something that was big.”

While he doesn’t support a shutdown, Wittman still defends his vote for the legislation to defund Obamacare that has a veto threat hanging over it.

“We have to have a debate about the Affordable Care Act. It will continue. I think we also have to make sure we do the responsible thing and keep government running. So I think we can do both of those simultaneously. Obviously there will be a lot of back and forth on this. But that’s good. We ought to have that discussion and back and forth on major policy issues.”

The only Republican in the House who opposed the measure was Virginia Congressman Scott Rigell. While he’s no fan of the health care law, his vote was a protest against the short term funding bills that seem to just inch Congress along from crisis to crisis.  "This particular issue evokes in me my deepest resentment and frustration with the overall institution itself."

Rigell represents a lot of military personal and government contractors. He asked party leaders to cancel their August break to hammer out a long term spending plan. Rigell says that would have been better than passing another short term spending bill. “They damage our military. They make what limited funds we have far less efficient. These are not without adverse consequences.”

Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran says he doesn’t see much room for compromise with most House Republicans.  “I don’t think the chances are any better than 50/50 that the government will be open as of October first. I think there very well may be a government shutdown.”

But Moran adds that he thinks Virginia and the nation may actually fare better under a shutdown scenario where the two parties are eventually forced to compromise and undo sequestration. "Frankly a government shutdown is better than reverting to a long term sequester level of funding.”

House leaders canceled a scheduled recess this week because current funding only lasts until September 30th and the two parties have yet to negotiate an agreement to keep the government’s lights on.