Red-State, Blue-State Split Colors Shutdown Debate

October 1, 2013
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Congress remains deadlocked when it comes to Obamacare

Congress remains deadlocked when it comes to Obamacare

WASHINGTON — The politics of the government shutdown debate for members of the Colorado congressional delegation and their colleagues are more than black and white. They also are red and blue.

For reporters in the mainstream press and Democratic Party leaders, the most conservative House Republicans are the villains, driving the shutdown and alienating the moderates in their ranks.

For some conservative bloggers and Republican politicians, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are the bad guys, seeking to protect red-state Democrats from a tough vote on the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Any villainy of individual politicians and ideological factions aside, the political dynamic of a federal shutdown resembles the red-state, blue-state divide that appeared in the 2000 presidential election. “Blue” states along the coasts and parts of the Great Lakes voted for the Democratic nominee, while “red’ states in the heartland voted for the GOP nominee.

Monday night, the House voted 228-201 to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year and continue funding the operations of the federal government. Nine Democrats voted for the delay – John Barrow of Georgia; Ron Barber and Krysten Sinema of Arizona; Steven Horsford of Nevada, Dan Maffei and Sean Maloney of New York, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Jim Matheson of Utah, and Raul Ruiz of California. Most of those members represented districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012.

The red-state, blue-state dynamic also was on display after House Republicans held a caucus meeting inside the large windowless conference room of HC-5 underneath the Capitol Monday afternoon. After the meeting ended after 3:35 p.m. EST and they walked out the doors, Republicans from Colorado reacted to questions from reporters in one of two ways.

Representatives Cory Gardner of Yuma and Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs fielded multiple questions about the contents of the closed-door meeting.

“We’re working the will of the people,” Gardner said, referring to a bill that would delay the implementation of the individual mandate of Obamacare for one year and eliminate the federal subsidy for members of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches.

“One person spoke for a clean (continuing resolution, a bill without a delay on Obamacare), and his response was not received well,” Lamborn said.

Gardner and Lamborn represent conservative districts that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried easily in 2012.

In addition, all but one of the 12 House Republicans who crossed the aisle Monday night to vote with Democrats to reject the House Republican bill did so because they sought to defund not delay Obamacare. Only Representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida represented districts that Obama carried in 2012 and opposed the House Republicans’ bill from the left.

By contrast, Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora defended the provision in the bill that would delay the individual mandate for a year.

“We delayed the mandate for businesses for a year,” he said, referring to the Obama administration’s announcement in July that companies with more than 50 employees do not need to provide health insurance until Jan. 1, 2015. “It’s a matter of fairness.”

President Obama carried Coffman’s district by five points in 2012.

Yet Democrats too have approached the vote over the shutdown and Obamacare differently. Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he is willing to vote for a one-year delay of Obamacare. He represents a state Romney carried by 27 points. Several red-state senators, such as Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, had voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Any subsequent vote against the bill would have invited the accusation that they were for the bill before they were against it.

In July, 22 House Democrats cast “aye” votes for the Fairness for American Families Act, a bill to delay the implementation of the individual mandate for one year. Twelve won their districts by less than 5 percent, according to an analysis The Daily Kos conducted.

Colorado Democrats have not voted as their more conservative colleagues. Rep. Jared  Polis of Boulder spoke on the House floor Monday evening to denounce the House Republican bill, while Diana DeGette of Denver and Ed Perlmutter of Golden have voted and spoken consistently in favor of the Affordable Care Act.

Each represents a district they and Obama carried by double-digit margins.

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