Analysis: Potential candidates seek distance from shutdown

Those outside the Beltway have a much easier time pulling it off.

LOS ANGELES TIMESOctober 6, 2013 


    House votes to give furloughed workers back pay

    WASHINGTON — The unanimous vote Saturday would cover hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers, but the measure showed no sign of ending the impasse that has forced much of the federal government to shut down.

    The bill now goes to the Senate, which also convened for an unusual Saturday session, but Democrats had no immediate plans to approve the back-pay bill.

    Hagel recalls most Defense Department workers

    WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s surprise announcement Saturday reinstates almost all of the 350,000 civilian employees next week because Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers interpreted a stopgap budget measure signed into law last week by President Barack Obama, which guaranteed pay for service members, to also apply to a larger number of civilian workers.

    Second tea party lawmaker yields on health care law

    WASHINGTON — Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican elected in 2010, said Saturday he’d support an agreement to end the shutdown and lift the debt ceiling if it included revisions to U.S. tax law, significant changes to Medicare and Social Security and streamlined regulations. He joins Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., in backing off the fight.

    Statesman wire services

For Republicans thinking of running for president in 2016, one imperative may be rising fast: not to be Bob Dole.

The former Kansas senator was the party’s nominee for president in 1996, in the campaign that followed the last big government shutdowns. His opponent, Bill Clinton, succeeded in wrapping the brouhaha — then, as now, blamed more on Republicans in Congress than on the Democratic president — around Dole’s neck, tight as a noose and just as lethal, politically.

In ads and speeches, Clinton repeatedly castigated the “Dole-Gingrich” agenda, tying the senator to the prime mover behind the shutdowns, House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Dole was trapped, as repudiating Clinton by pointing out the differences between himself and Gingrich, a fellow Republican, would have alienated the Gingrich backers Dole needed in his White House bid.

The course of the current shutdown is not clear — including whether it will be shorter or longer than the 26 days total the government closed its doors in two periods the winter before the 1996 election. Already, however, members of Congress are vastly unpopular, and catching the same sort of blame as Gingrich’s army did back then, particularly as the victims of shutdown are delineated: kids with cancer; military families; emergency workers.

For those who would be GOP candidates next time, then, a little distancing is in order.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for one, has taken on the Washington contretemps as Example A of how not to do things — an approach that artfully helps to demonstrate his willingness to work with Democrats, the dominant party in the state in which he’s seeking re-election.

“I told my staff today: If I were down there, I would say, ‘Listen, we’ve got seven hours to go. Guess where you’re spending the next seven hours? Right here in the Roosevelt Room. We’re not leaving until we get a solution to this problem,’” the Republican governor said in Red Bank earlier this week.

“I think everybody’s handled it poorly,” Christie said.

Later, at a groundbreaking for a university building in Glassboro, he pounded home the message again with the help of state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who lauded Christie for working with his party to boost the state’s education spending.

“As Steve very well put it, it is in stark contrast to what we’re seeing right now in the nation’s capital, where not only won’t people work together, they won’t even talk to each other,” Christie said. “And you know that doesn’t happen here … even when we’re angry with each other we don’t let ourselves stop talking to each other.”

A potential 2016 competitor, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, used his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association to stiff-arm his compadres in the Capitol.

“Republican governors are not going to take a back seat to anyone in Washington anymore,” he said in a statement, adding: “We are no longer going to outsource the Republican brand to the talking heads in Washington. We are not going to allow the Republican Party to be defined by the dysfunction in Washington.”

It can be a little tougher to gain distance from a perch inside the Capitol. On Wednesday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman outlined for reporters a grand framework for the budget that he called “a step in the right direction.” Portman, who was short-listed for vice president on the 2012 Republican ticket, said he was trying to sell both parties on his plan.

He brushed aside the current effort to force delays or defunding of President Obama’s health care law.

“We fought that fight; we fought hard,” he said. “We’ve done what we can do at this point, including taking the government into shutdown.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, meanwhile, was also seeking a bit of remove from the dust-up that he, more than anyone else, had forced. (Cruz kicked off the effort with a 21-hour verbal tour de force that included references to Nazis, the “Star Wars” empire and “Green Eggs and Ham.”)

“We’re in a shutdown for one reason,” he declared Wednesday, blaming it all on the Democratic Senate leader. “Harry Reid wants a shutdown.”

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