Rep. Scott Rigell, the lone House Republican

September 23, 2013

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), left, in 2011. (Melina Mara/The Washington…)

When House Republicans passed a stopgap bill Friday funding the government--with the exception of the president's Affordable Care Act--all of the chamber's Republicans voted for it. Except one.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), the lone GOP congressman to vote against the plan to defund the health care act, had his reasons for doing so. The representative for the Virginia Beach area, which has a heavy military presence, voted no because the bill fails to replace the sequester and because he doesn't support the reliance on such continuing resolutions--that is, emergency funding measures Congress can use rather than pass the necessary bills in time.

Now, he's no fan of Obamacare. In a release about his decision, Rigell noted that "he appreciated leadership’s effort to defund the health care law as part of the appropriations process and agrees it should be defunded."

But even so, Rigell's vote shows he's more deeply concerned about the breakdown of Congress's traditional funding process than the political showdown playing out between Republicans and Democrats over Obamacare. And he's right that our stopgap approach to running the government is something that needs to change.

Since 1997, the last time Congress followed the normal budget appropriations process, Congress has passed 90 continuing resolutions (or CRs), reports the Post's Ed O'Keefe. Doing so prevents federal agencies from planning long term and ties up billions in government contracts that could create jobs.

Rigell might be more concerned with the latter, given his military-heavy district stands to suffer from such losses. Still, it's a lonely move to break from the pack--and one that takes a lot of courage. Not surprisingly, the second-term Congressman and car dealership owner is already taking heat on Twitter for his vote. He's been called a "RINO scared of his own shadow" and told to "Start collecting empty boxes. You won't be reelected." Though there are others, of course, who have tweeted in applause of Rigell's vote.

This is not the first time Rigell has broken out on his own. He complicated the GOP establishment's support of using force in Syria by leading an effort to get the president to first consult Congress. And he was reportedly the first Republican to fly on Air Force One since the start of the president's re-election campaign. On the sequester deals being negotiated at the time, Rigell said "I just want to get something on the table."

Given that a growing number of Americans want government leaders to make compromises rather than stand their ground, that's probably not a bad place to start.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

Shutdown countdown: What the next eight days could bring

The lawmakers to watch

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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Jena McGregor · September 20, 2013