Constituents calling and emailing his office, Simpson said, generally oppose both the shutdown and the Obama health law. He said the government shutdown could last at least two weeks, which would overlap with the more consequential question of whether to raise the U.S. debt limit to avoid defaulting on obligations.
Like many Republicans, Simpson said the GOP will have more political leverage on the debt ceiling because the stakes will be so high. The White House calls that an irresponsible and unacceptable strategy, and it vows not to negotiate on something that could rock financial markets worldwide and trigger a new recession.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., fully endorsed that view Thursday. He said no conditions can be attached to a "clean" extension of government funding and a hike in the nation's borrowing capacity. If that forces House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to rely on Democratic votes and possibly lose his speakership to angry conservatives, Reid told reporters, then so be it.
Interviews with House Republicans and Democrats expose the ideological chasm that separates them, and the self-assurance of politicians strongly favored to win next year's election, regardless of the shutdown outcome. One side's reasonableness is the other side's absurdity.
"Something that is very reasonable is for us to give them a one-year CR in exchange for a one-year delay" in the entire health law's implementation, said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. A "CR" is a continuing resolution, which would extend government funding at current levels.
Labrador won his last election with 63 percent of the vote, and Obama lost Idaho to Mitt Romney by a 2-to-1 margin.
Democrats scoff at Labrador's suggestion.
"The only way this ends is when the speaker allows the full House to work its will," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who took 63 percent of the vote in his last election. "We could pass a clean CR, to keep the government funded, today," he said, if Boehner would allow all House members to vote.