They are Republicans such as Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), who represents Fresno. “I think it’s moronic to shut down the government over this. I don’t understand it. I never have,” he said Monday after House leaders unveiled their latest plan to link a bill to keep the government funded to a delay of a central plank of the federal health-care law, the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance. The new measure also would end health-insurance subsidies for lawmakers, their staffs and top political appointees — and Senate Democrats vowed to kill it.
Don’t call these Republicans moderates, a dirty word in the modern GOP. Perhaps just call them the “not-as-conservatives” — as in not as conservative as the rest of their colleagues. Ultimately, the outcome of the current crisis could rest in their hands.
The number of Republicans from such districts are dwindling. In 1995, more than a third of House Republicans hailed from congressional districts that had been won by President Bill Clinton three years earlier. Today, just 17 House Republicans come from districts won last year by President Obama, according to Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman.
But time and again in recent months, legislative battles have ended the same way — with
a group of these not-as-
conservatives aligning with Democrats to pass legislation over the objection of their party’s most conservative members.
That’s how the nation cleared the fiscal cliff in January, when 85 Republicans joined 172 Democrats to back a bill that spared most Americans a tax increase but allowed rates to rise on those making more than $450,000 a year, anathema to some conservatives.
In January, just 49 Republicans joined with 192 Democrats to pass a bill that provided billions of dollars in relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, over objections from members of the GOP who thought that the measure should be offset with other spending cuts and that it contained pork.
Even as lawmakers remained stalemated as midnight approached, some predicted that’s how a shutdown would end this time, too.
“It’s a dead end,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said Monday afternoon, explaining why he would vote against the latest Republican plan, in hopes of getting to that outcome more quickly.
King said that he raised his objections to the new plan during a closed-door meeting with his GOP colleagues Monday afternoon and that other Republicans openly lamented that “we’re throwing red meat to the public and using our staff to get us out of the trouble we got ourselves into.”
King, who has represented a portion of Long Island for 20 years, said a group of 20 to 25 fellow not-as-conservatives huddled on the House floor Saturday, when the chamber tossed to the Senate its prior doomed plan to tie government funding to derailing Obamacare, that time by delaying the health-care law for a year. That plan was slapped down by the Senate on Monday afternoon.