Government Shutdown

By sheer force of their personalities, and under the protection of their conservative districts, these representatives feel secure in rejecting compromise.

By Lisa Mascaro and Michael A. Memoli
October 7, 2013, 8:32 p.m.

WASHINGTON — One is a former Texas talk-radio host who had never held public office until he won a seat in Congress in the 2010 tea party wave.

Another is an MIT-educated inventor who has all but shelved his scientific pursuits to reinvent government.

Others are back-bench, right-wing lawmakers who have served in Congress for years but suddenly find their once far-afield views have more currency within their party.

These are the House Republicans who have convinced Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to use the federal shutdown and a possible debt default as leverage to reduce the reach of government.

They are not just tea party members but a combination of newcomers and veterans who, by sheer force of their personalities, and emboldened by safe conservative districts, have chosen to defy Washington’s traditional norms of conversation and compromise.

They could be called the Chick-fil-A Caucus, after the monthly hearings convened by some conservative leaders, shadow government-style, in ornate committee chambers where they proudly serve sandwiches from the company made politically famous by the owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Their fierce commitment and the intense support of their outspoken constituents to slash spending and halt President Obama’s healthcare law almost guarantee there will be no speedy resolution to the standoff that has forced parts of the federal government to close.

Now in its second week, the shutdown that started as an attempt to end Obamacare has shifted into a Republican-led battle to cut spending. The legislative context has shifted too, with the focus now on a vote that will be needed by Oct. 17 to raise the nation’s debt limit. Failure to lift it, economists warn, could risk catastrophic default.

“Most of the messages I’m getting from Texas are: ‘Hang on, you’re doing the right thing,'” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), the attorney-turned-radio-host who pushed out a 14-term Democrat.

“We are not a bunch of hardheaded fools,” added Farenthold, a friendly, robust man with a bushy mop of dark hair. His goal is not to “kick and scream,” he said, but to “get the economy fixed.”

To read entire story, click here.