Why did Mike Simpson vote for then against the shutdown?


Thursday morning, I sent an email to Idaho’s 2nd District Representative Mike Simpson applauding his vote to end the government shutdown. I also asked for an explanation of why he voted for the shutdown in the first place when he knew as well as I what the outcome would be. Thus far, all I have received in response is this form email letter:

As you may know, I voted in support of H.R. 2775, the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014, to re-open the federal government, avoid default on our nation’s debt, and preserve the historic spending cuts Republicans have won in Congress over the last three years. It passed in the House by a vote of 285-144 after passing the Senate and has been signed into law by the President.
Of course I know that. I’d been writing him repeatedly over the previous two weeks urging just that!
My vote was about the thousands of people facing layoffs at INL, the multitude of businesses across Idaho that told me their livelihoods were at stake and the millions of folks across the country who couldn’t afford the devastating impacts of default on their investments and retirements. I strongly believe there has to be a way to address our nation’s fiscal problems without making them worse in the process. [emphasis added] That is the result I will continue working toward during the time we’ve afforded ourselves with this agreement. 
Simpson knew going in that a government shutdown would bring about these problems for his constituents, yet voted to effect the closure, and voted to end it after 16 days, the day before the furlough of those thousands of INL employees was to take effect.

The fight over Obamacare may now move to another venue, but the fight is far from over. While I strongly believe we should continue working to delay the entire law for one year, I also believe that Obamacare may collapse of its own weight. I have always said that it won’t work. I don’t believe it will contain costs. I don’t believe it will improve access. And I certainly don’t believe that it can survive the scrutiny it is sure to receive once it is fully implemented and its impacts are fully realized. At that point, Republicans will have a much stronger hand.

It was the votes of Simpson and his fellow Republicans that tried, unsuccessfully, to move the fight over Obamacare to the government shutdown “venue.” Before the shutdown, Simpson said that shutting down the government was not the correct venue for trying to derail Obamacare. So why in late September did he vote twice for versions of Huse Joint Resolution 59 that would keep the government funded through December 15 only if Obamacare were delayed for one year? “The one year delay in Obamacare just makes sense,” Simpson said in support of his vote. Three days before the shutdown, Simpson also voted to continue to pay members of the armed forces and his own personal bill to keep national parks and monuments open if the government shutdown. They passed only in the House.

This bill [H.R. 2775], while far from perfect, preserves the progress Republicans have made in reducing spending and moving toward a balanced budget. It ensures thousands of people in eastern Idaho won’t lose their jobs at INL, ends the uncertainty for Idaho businesses that have been impacted by the shutdown and are terrified of default, and it gives Congress the time to approach our budget challenges in an honest, collaborative, comprehensive, and enduring way over the next few months. I am deeply hopeful that we will now look toward a grand bargain, or ‘big’ solution that includes spending cuts, tax reform, and entitlement reform. The American people understand that doing so will require tough decisions, difficult sacrifices, and political courage. I am ready to face those tough decisions and I hope a majority of my colleagues in the House and Senate are ready to do so as well.
I’m not holding my breath. Of course, the “progress” in reducing spending and moving toward a balanced budget was the bipartisan “sequestration” that cut government expenditures across the board. It is interesting to see Simpson claiming this meat-ax approach to the federal budget, with which few in either party are happy,  as a Republican accomplishment.
What is Simpson’s political calculation with this switching back and forth, first publicly acknowledging that hijacking the government to stop Obamacare was not a good idea, then voting twice for HJR 59 and, finally, after 16 days and  an estimated $16- to $24-billion hit to the country’s economy, voting to end the shutdown. A glance at the several hundred comments on Simpson’s Facebook page tells the story of what he’s up against.

“Standing ground”

“…calls to Idaho’s congressional delegation are running two to one or more for continuing the shutdown until President Barack Obama defunds or delays his health program. That’s why all four of Idaho’s Republican congressmen have steadfastly – up to now – stood their ground opposing reopening the government,” Rocky Barker reported in a Sunday, Oct. 13, Idaho Statesman story, which has gone nationwide.

In that loaded phrasing, Rocky telegraphs the subliminal tea-party message that, like George Zimmerman in Florida, the guys who have shut down the US government are just standing their ground to protect the neighborhood from the likes o’ that uppity, hoodie-wearing black kid from the white house down the road who don’t belong in this neighborhood anyhow!

“I believe we should stand our ground,” said Ted Cruz, the tea-party senator from Texas, pledging to derail Obamacare over the president’s guaranteed veto a few weeks ago, the Associated Press reported. Cruz was working up to his one-man fauxlibuster on the Senate floor, where he stood his ground for 21:19 hours to stop a House bill, which would do what he wants, from coming to a Senate vote, where it was amended after the senator’s tirade was over.

In recent weeks, such ground-standing has elevated Cruz to be the congressional face of the tea party—and it’s apparent shutdown strategist and visionary. While it is Congress that holds and has tied the government’s purse-strings largely through their efforts, Cruz and his ilk blame Obama and the Democrats for the government shutdown. Yesterday, Cruz co-opted a rally of veterans shut out of the World War II Memorial by the government closure when more than 300 Park Service workers who staff and maintain the National Mall, where the memorial is located, were furloughed.

Sunday’s protesters removed the barriers at the WWII memorial and stacked them outside the White House gates several blocks away. Park police, who are working without pay during the shutdown, secured the memorial again following the protest. Seems like Mr. Cruz wants federal employees to support his tea-party shenanigans by working overtime without pay.

Supposedly, Cruz and other tea-party Republicans want to keep the government closed until the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is defunded or delayed, as Rocky Barker has relayed. However, there’s something else going on.

While polling shows that less than a third of the country (28percent) supports the shutdown, it hasn’t mattered. House Speaker John Boehner could end the charade at any moment, by allowing a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution to loosen the government purse-strings. Boehner, too, has adopted the “stand your ground” motto and stance. He has concerns such as keeping both his seat representing his Ohio district and his seat as speaker, in control of the House of Representatives.

Idaho’s second congressional district is an excellent example of what’s at stake in the push to move the Grand Old Party even further to the radical right. Second district congressman Mike Simpson is a very conservative Republican, but he’s been in Washington long enough to understand, respect and master the process. He is on record saying that a shutdown is not an effective tactic for attacking Obamacare, which he has voted to repeal scores of times along with other House Republicans.

With sentiment for continuing the shutdown running two-to-one at home, Simpson would be foolhardy to sign a discharge petition to force a House vote and courageous to help pass a clean continuing resolution. According to Rocky Barker, Simpson hoped the situation would force an agreement to reopen affected parts of the federal government. Simpson has proposed piecemeal authorizations that would reopen the National Parks, for example. He said he could support a continuing resolution to end the shutdown without linking it to the Affordable Care Act for a short time, possibly two weeks.

If the shutdown continues through the end of the week, the Idaho National Lab, a mainstay of the Eastern Idaho economy (and Simpson’s wife’s employer) begins furloughs. Then, perhaps Simpson will hear the other side of the story. He may have a real race on his hands because of the shutdown. Unseating what passes these days as “moderate” Republicans like Simpson, and replacing them with more reactionary, tea-party leaning opponents, is another, key objective of the current congressional brinkmanship.

In districts like Simpson’s across the country, where Republicans are guaranteed the seat and where many of the 28 percent of Americans who support hijacking the government to stop Obamacare reside and vote, tea-party patriots are standing their ground and they’re not gonna let folks like Mike Simpson trample it.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Matt Miller interviewed Canadian capitalists who wonder what all the fuss is about:

Canadians don’t understand Ted Cruz’s health-care battle

My take-away is that American businesses are crazy not to support a single-payer system, which would relieve them of any responsibility for employee health care, a huge and complex part of many companies’ costs.

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