MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 4, 2013

House hard-liners united in budget showdown


Associated Press

— WASHINGTON (AP) — Freshman Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma is one of the hard-line House conservatives demanding concessions from President Barack Obama on his health care law in exchange for ending the federal government shutdown.

“We have got to get to the point where we’re working like a functional government, not like a dictatorship,” said Mullin, a 36-year-old rancher and plumbing business owner who insists that the president and Senate Democrats must negotiate on an emergency spending bill to re-open the government.

In Mullin’s expansive district, which stretches along eastern Oklahoma from Kansas to Texas, many constituents stand firmly behind the young Republican congressman even as they begin to feel the impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years. They’re unbending in their opposition to the 3-year-old health care law and endorse any effort to unravel it.

“Wait it out,” Micah Thompson, a 32-year-old seminarian student and Army reservist from Canadian, Okla., advised Mullin. “It’s chicken. Someone’s got to blink first.”

For Thompson, the shutdown isn’t just a political fight in Washington. His brother, an employee at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, has been furloughed. This weekend, Thompson himself faces cancellation of his Army drills and the loss of pay.

Thompson knows what he doesn’t like about the health care law. “I think it’s wrong to make someone buy something they don’t want or don’t need,” he said, referring to the requirement that millions of Americans get coverage or face a penalty.

So Mullin stands firm, and he is not alone. Rebellious Republicans prevailed in pressuring Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to link undoing the health care law to the temporary spending bill and have refused to relent, now four days into a government shutdown with no end in sight.

Few arguments have swayed these GOP newcomers, 71 from the tea party class of 2010 and 37 who arrived in Washington earlier this year. Many are too young to remember the last shutdown in 1995 and the political woes it created for the GOP.

The party’s last two presidential nominees — John McCain and Mitt Romney — have challenged the wisdom of the strategy but have been ignored. Republican senators have called the tactic dumb and a ploy but have failed to change minds. Nearly two dozen House Republicans have dissented, urging a vote on a straightforward bill to open the government, with little success.

Mullin’s fellow Oklahoman, six-term Republican Rep. Tom Cole, has also counseled against the stalemate, warning repeatedly that a shutdown and government default on paying its bills “are about the only two things that could jeopardize the House majority” next year. Cole is close to Boehner and serves as a deputy whip.