Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

October 4, 2013

Politically safe lawmakers see no urgency in shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government shutdown could last for many days or even weeks because politically safe lawmakers in both parties feel little pressure to compromise.

Heavily gerrymandered districts make many House Democrats and Republicans virtual shoo-ins for re-election, insulating them from everything but the views in their slice of the country. That means some lawmakers can be greeted as heroes back home even if nationally the budget standoff comes to be viewed with scorn.

For decades, lawmakers have redrawn congressional boundaries to pack districts with like-minded people and ensure easy re-election for incumbents. But election results and lawmakers' voting patterns show that the House is more sharply divided along party lines than perhaps at any other point in modern times.

"After every census and reapportionment, the blue districts get bluer and the red districts get redder," said former Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, using the colorful terms for liberal and conservative districts. "It's against their electoral interests," he said, for lawmakers from such districts to move toward the center rather than feed "red meat" to their most ideological constituents.

Many House Republicans insist that President Barack Obama curtail all or part of his landmark health care law, which they call "Obamacare." But Democrats, who control the Senate, say it's preposterous to yield ground on a major accomplishment that survived a Supreme Court challenge and Obama's 2012 re-election.

Both sides appear unwilling to budge, thanks to lawmakers' ideological beliefs and the strong support they generally receive from voters back home.

"It might be that both sides are backed into a corner so far that it's hard to get out of," said Rep. Mike Simpson. R-Idaho. "Obama is not going to give up on Obamacare, for either a delay or defunding it," he said. "And I don't see how we can give up on trying."

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