WASHINGTON -- Three San Joaquin Valley, Calif., Republicans face special heat amid the federal government shutdown.
Two of them, Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham, represent potentially competitive districts carried by President Barack Obama in 2012. Democrats see opportunity in 2014 if they can link the two incumbents to the government failure.
A third GOP House member from the valley, Rep. Tom McClintock, enjoys a much safer seat that’s drawn for a career Republican. But while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney easily carried McClintock’s district last year, it also includes Yosemite National Park and neighboring communities that pay a high-profile price during the shutdown
“There’s no question it’s harmful to the mountain communities,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., acknowledged Friday.
Carolyn Botell, administrator of the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce in Groveland, Calif., said in an interview Friday that local businesses have been “financially devastated” by the combination of the government shutdown and the earlier Rim fire that burned more than 256,000 acres. Botell said businesses are “definitely seeing less people,” although she added there are “a lot of people coming in who don’t know about the situation.”
“One of the questions my visitors ask me is how long will this last,” Botell said, “and I just tell them I have absolutely no idea.”
During the last federal government shutdown, in 1995-96, vocal complaints from Yosemite-area communities helped persuade the region’s then-congressman, George Radanovich, to eventually repudiate the shutdown tactic. Like other lawmakers at the time, he came around to the view that national parks should be immune from shutdowns.
McClintock’s office did not respond to multiple queries Friday.
On Wednesday, though, he and other House Republicans passed a funding bill that would selectively reopen the National Park Service, while leaving other public lands agencies closed. House Republicans have been passing a number of similarly selective funding measures, while seeking to maintain leverage in efforts to delay or change the Affordable Care Act.
“While the Senate obviously prefers a government shutdown to negotiating with Republicans over Obamacare, I hope they will at least take pity on the gateway communities of our national parks that depend on tourism for their livelihoods, and expeditiously pass this bill,” McClintock said this week.
The parks funding bill would not fund the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service or other public land agencies, and White House officials said they would recommend the president veto the “piecemeal” approach. It passed the House, 252-173, but faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
The broader uncertainty extends to how long the overall shutdown will last, though Denham said he “would be hopeful” that it might be resolved early next week. Other lawmakers voice skepticism, with several predicting that negotiations over reopening the federal government would be rolled into negotiations over how to extend the federal debt ceiling, now said to be reached on Oct. 17.
Some Republicans, though still a minority, have also voiced dissatisfaction with the hard-line negotiating stance that got Congress to this point in the first place.
“I tried everything I could to steer us against this strategy,” Nunes said in an interview Friday. “It’s going to end badly for some in my party.”
On Capitol Hill, the term of the week is “clean CR.” This refers to a continuing resolution, or funding measure, that is free of Republican attempts to defund, delay or take some other action related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats are using the “clean CR” option as an attack line on Republicans, including Denham and Valadao. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday declared in a statement that Denham “won’t budge from his reckless shutdown, voting in lockstep with his Republican leadership to refuse to end the shutdown.”
Denham, in an interview, countered that he’s been joining House Republicans in passing individual funding bills, which he blamed the Senate for blocking. He insisted that a bill to reopen the entire government should rightly be paired with provisions delaying or changing the Affordable Care Act.
“The problem is, Obama has been picking and choosing which parts of this law to implement,” Denham said. “It’s unfair to my district.”
Valadao, likewise, said an interview Friday that he supports the House Republican leadership, which has so far been adamant about combining anti-Affordable Care Act provisions with any long-term government funding bill. Valadao said he’s been hearing from many valley residents who share his concern about the new health law; at the same time, he said he’s willing to consider new directions.
“I’m going to keep my options open,” Valadao said. “We have to sit down at the table and talk.”