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Rep. Jim McGovern: Gingrich ‘seemed more reasonable’

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), left, called the prospect of a government shutdown “disgraceful.” (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Sitting on the dais at a meeting of the House Rules Committee on Saturday evening, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) looked dejected.

A Democrat sidelined as Republicans plow ahead, he reminded them that President Obama threatened “an absolute veto” of the short-term spending bill.

“Keeping our government running, I think, is too big a deal to kind of play this gamesmanship,” he said.

When McGovern concluded, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, piped up.

“Did you say the president is threatening to veto?” Rogers asked.

“He isn’t threatening — he said he will veto,” McGovern replied.

“So he’s drawn a red line?” Rogers asked, a clear reference Obama’s controversial statement last year that the Syrian regime would “cross a red line” if it used chemical weapons in that country’s civil war. The comment provoked laughs from GOP lawmakers, in part, because McGovern, like most Republicans, staunchly opposed the president’s plan to attack Syria in the wake of exactly such an attack last month.

A deflated McGovern responded: “I think he’s very serious about this, because it’s not about him, it’s about a lot of people.”

McGovern, 53, was a staff member during the last government shutdown and said this time the GOP seems “more extreme” than it was in 1996.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m nostalgic for (then-Speaker) Newt Gingrich but the bottom line was, by comparison, he seemed more reasonable,” McGovern said.

When asked whether the government would shut down, McGovern just sighed.

“I don’t know what the hell they are thinking,” he said. “To have a small group of their conference going to run the show and bring us to this point where the government is going to shut down and we’re going to default on our financial obligations really is disgraceful.”

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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