State’s Congressional GOP contingent stands firm on budget stalemate

By Bryan Steele and Brana Vlasic

California News Service

WASHINGTON — Nationwide polls show Republicans taking a beating for demanding that President Obama abandon or delay his health care plan before they agree to pass a budget that would reopen the government.

A new Gallup Poll found the Republican Party’s approval rating was lower than any party had ever been in the two decades they have been asking the question.

But most of California’s House Republicans insist their stance is popular with their constituents and won’t hurt their re-election chances in 2014.

Though few states are as reliably Democratic as California, which gave Obama a 2.3 million vote victory over Republican Mitt Romney last November, there are pockets of conservative voters who have encouraged their Republican representatives not to back down.

Of the 15 Republican House members from California, 12 represent districts that voted for Romney over Obama.

“My constituents aren’t happy about the shutdown,” said Rep. David Valadao, R-Bakersfield, in an interview. But “they support the delay of Obamacare, they understand the fight.”

Valadao’s district covers a long stretch of Interstate 5 including parts of Bakersfield and Fresno which is traditionally a more conservative area than the rest of the state.

Farr speaks out

Rep. Sam Farr, whose Santa Cruz-area district gave Obama 71 percent of its votes last year, has consistently spoken against the Republicans’ refusal to pass a budget.

The support House Republicans are receiving in California provides insight into the politics behind Washington’s gridlock. What plays poorly nationally may not play poorly locally.

Far from the Democratic strongholds of Los Angeles and the Bay Area, most California Republicans come from districts where standing up to Obamacare is good politics.

Republican Doug LaMalfa, who represents a district stretching from Chico to the Oregon border, held a telephone town hall meeting last week. Three-quarters of the participants said they supported the Republicans’ refusal to pass a budget unless the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is delayed.

Both sides hit

The shutdown has hurt the status of both parties, but Republicans have been hit much harder. A recent Gallup poll revealed that the public’s approval for the GOP dropped from 38 to 28 percent in just the last month.

John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, said the national polls will have little influence on individual members of Congress. However if their constituents grow angrier about the lack of services, they might start applying more pressure on their representatives.

“If the shutdown continues, more people are going to be affected, and more people will be complaining to their House members,” Pitney said.

The state’s congressional delegation, the largest in the nation, is heavily lopsided in favor of Democrats. The state sends 38 Democrats to the House — nearly one fifth of the party’s entire representation.

Democrats are hopeful the shutdown politics will make their advantage even more one-sided.

“Congressional Republicans are pretty much an endangered species in California. The map is shrinking for them,” said California Democratic Party’s Communication Director Tenoch Flores.

But there is little evidence that frustration over the shutdown is having any negative effect on representatives such as Republican John Campbell, whose district includes Irvine and Mission Viejo and voted Republican in the last two presidential elections.

Some members dismissed the short term political consequences of their stance.

“I’m thinking about my constituents, not the next election. That’s the last thing on my mind,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican whose district hugs the Nevada border from just east of Yosemite to just north of Palm Springs.

And some Republicans suggested that the public’s distaste for Obamacare will play a more important role than the shutdown in the 2014 election.

“There is way too much focus on the politics of the Republicans, but this is not the real issue here,” said Jonathan Wilcox, the communications director for the Los Angeles Republican Party.

Others acknowledged that they have been receiving mixed feedback.

 

Getting calls

Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, has been getting calls urging him to support the Senate budget which would immediately reopen the government. But he has given no indication that he is wavering.

“Certainly, he considers the views of his constituents, recognizing that such opinion can and does vary from day to day,” said Rick Dykema, his chief of staff. “But he has not changed his support of the Republican leadership’s position.”

Three of the House Republicans — Reps. Valadao, Jeff Denham, R-Merced, and Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga — come from districts that voted for Obama last year, and Democrats say they may be more worried than they are letting on.

“Privately many of them are having different discussions than what they are saying publicly,” said Bob Mulholland, a former senior adviser to the California Democratic Party.

The California News Service — Washington is a project of the University of California’s Washington Center and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Contact CNS at cns@ucdc.edu.

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