Mon September 30, 2013
Acknowledging GOP Will Be Blamed, Congressman Thomas Massie Describes Shutdown as 'Not a Big Deal'
Rep.Thomas Massie acknowledges Republicans will face the brunt of the blame if the government shuts down at midnight.
But the freshman lawmaker from Kentucky's Fourth District says constituents have told him it is "not a big deal" if certain federal agencies and functions close.
"I’m certain we'll get blamed for it," Massie told WFPL this afternoon. "But that’s also (Senate Democratic Leader) Harry Reid’s motive for running out the clock today. And they’re hoping there is a shutdown for their own political gain."
On Monday afternoon, the Senate once again rejected a House spending bill backed by Republicans, which sought to delay Obamacare by one year and repeal the medical device tax.
This was slightly different measure than an earlier GOP pitch to take out funding for the Affordable Care Act altogether.
Democrats have made it clear any efforts to undermine the health care law are a non-starter, however.
Polling figures show 46 percent of Americans would blame congressional Republicans if a shutdown takes place. The same survey finds 36 percent believe the Democrats and president would be responsible.
The political backlash isn't lost on a group of moderate House Republicans who are reportedly planning a revolt against GOP leadership and more conservative members.
Massie is part of a group in the House members who spoke with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who strategized to oppose House Speaker John Boehner's plan. Asked about the impact on Kentucky, he told WFPL a partial shutdown will have limited real world effects.
"I have a lot of IRS employees in my district and I spoke with them. They told me ‘look we’ve been through these shutdowns before. It’s not a big deal. We go home. We come back a few days or a week later, and we still get paid,'" says Massie. "And I can tell you the ones who have been through a shutdown before—the federal employees who have—tell me it’s just not that big of a deal and that they don’t know why the media is making such as big deal out of it."
A shutdown would not delay Social Security payments, mail delivery or essential federal personnel dealing with national security, for instance.
In Kentucky that means, among other things, closing Head Start centers for some 16,000 children, furloughing around 25,000 federal employees and slowing claims at the VA medical center in Louisville.
A longer shutdown will also disproportionately impact poorer states.
According to a study by the non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts, Kentucky relies on federal spending more than any other state besides New Mexico. The report shows federal dollar accounts for 35 percent of the commonwealth's revenue.
Other Republicans in the delegation are hoping to find a compromise via a short-term funding bill, and believe there is bipartisan agreement on repeal the medical device tax.
"The only way forward is for people of both parties to come together and negotiate a middle-ground solution," says Republican Congressman Andy Barr, who represents central Kentucky. "Absolutely we've got to come to a consensus and there are places in the law, and the medical device tax is one."
Repealing the levy on manufacturers who make things such as pacemakers and defibrillators received more bipartisan support in the House.
Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth says some in his party would consider voting for that measure given medical manufacturing companies in their districts.
"What Congressman Barr doesn't mention is repealing that adds $29 billion to the deficit, which they do not pay for. That just add it to the deficit. So to me that's irresponsible," he says. "I wouldn't support it, but I think some Democrats would."
With less than five hours left, conservative lawmakers are hoping for any signs of compromise and challenging President Obama to take a more active role, perhaps in an attempt to help bail the House out of the GOP infighting.
"The American people are frustrated and they should be frustrated. They want a government that functions properly," says Barr. "The House has acted multiple times. It is the president and the Senate that refuses to negotiate. The American people are going to blame all of us. What I'm calling on the president to do is to help us avoid that by coming together and sitting down with us and finding a way forward, but we cannot do that if the president refuses to negotiate."