Divided we fall

Polls show most voters want Congress to seek out compromise, but Republican congressman's vocal supporters want him to stand firm
Associated Press
Aug 14, 2013

Republican Patrick McHenry's loudest constituents have no desire to see conciliation on gridlocked Capitol Hill, unless it comes from President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats.

As the congressman holds public question-and-answer sessions with constituents during Congress' summer break, conservatives and GOP loyalists who enjoy significant influence in his western North Carolina district are demanding that he and his House colleagues defund "Obamacare," refuse to raise the nation's debt limit and generally intensify opposition to the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Congress has abysmal approval ratings, and polls suggest that most voters want the divided government to seek out compromise. Yet the no-holds-barred attitude on display here — and elsewhere as other House Republicans hold town-hall style gatherings — offers an ominous forecast of the legislative battles ahead this fall and underscores how little political incentive many Republicans have to reach common ground on issues ranging from immigration to the budget.

The atmosphere has put Republicans like McHenry in a challenging spot. He and others are all but forced to square their criticism of the president with their unwillingness to go as far as the far right wants. In doing so, they risk irking the party's most conservative voters and drawing a primary challenge; many face re-election in districts Obama lost in 2012.

So at nearly every event over the past week, the 37-year-old, fifth-term congressman pre-emptively opened several recent appearances by suggesting that there are limits to the GOP's power, reminding his constituents that "elections have consequences ... (and) this president is in office through 2016." He found himself seeking to delicately explain why he doesn't support a government shut-down or a national credit default, and why there's only so much House Republicans can do to stop funding the health care law given that some of the federal spending is automatic.

Still, at the Lincolnton Chamber of Commerce, about 40 miles outside Charlotte, Keith Gaskill told McHenry he wants to see "more backbone from the Republican Party" against Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and the rest of the executive branch.

McHenry reminded Gaskill that he voted to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress.

And, when Lincoln County resident Robert Varney insisted that Congress should remove Holder from office, McHenry noted that the Democratic Senate would have to hold a trial.

"Do you really think that would happen?" he asked Varney, who was unbowed.

Varney was among voters who praised Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, tea party favorites who want to deny money for implementing Obama's health care law even if that means not financing core government functions at all after Sept. 30. Others pressed McHenry on whether he would vote to extend the nation's debt limit later this fall.

And a crowd at Lincolnton City Hall erupted in applause when a retired FBI agent from McHenry's hometown declared that "money is oxygen is Washington" and told McHenry that Republicans should "use the power of the purse" to extract what they want from the executive branch.

When constituents pressed him on health care, McHenry noted he voted against the law. But he also tried to convince the most vocal critics of it that shutting down government won't satisfy their concerns.

"No matter how much you dislike government, government does things we need," he said, citing military operations at one stop and noting Social Security at another.

On one hand, he called the nation's borrowing limit a legitimate tool for "leverage" against Obama and Democrats in an overhaul of the nation's taxing and spending blueprint — though he was short on details about his desired changes. Yet when pushed, McHenry carefully added a caveat. "We have to make good on our obligations," he said, tacitly explaining that raising nation's credit cap is about paying bills already due, not future spending priorities.

One pending issue where McHenry made little attempt at nuance was immigration. He assured multiple questioners that the House would act first on a single bill dealing only with border control. But he said, "Under no circumstance will I ever vote for the Senate bill" that includes an eventual path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

McHenry, like others in GOP-leaning districts, still fielded withering critiques from outnumbered Democrats and the occasional independent. But the exchanges usually revealed sentiments in the congressman's favor.

Questioners in rural Polk County lambasted McHenry's vote for a less generous nutrition assistance program that Republicans want to separate from farm subsidies — ending a four-decade precedent for a unified farm-and-food-stamp bill. McHenry insisted that GOP plans won't harm "any individual child" but are aimed at "able-bodied adults who refuse to work," as many nodded their heads in approval.

Asked his thoughts on the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction blueprint— bipartisan recommendations for curtailing expensive entitlement outlays and raising taxes — McHenry called the plan "credible," but quickly added that it has "a number of flaws ... particularly when you talk about raising taxes even higher" than the January deal on earnings higher than $400,000.

At several stops, McHenry asked how many people believe "things in Washington are as bad as they've ever been?"

They're wrong, he said. The worst, he explained over murmurs of curiosity, was "about 150 years ago ... when a congressman walked over and caned a senator." Though he avoided the details, he was referring to an 1856 incident when a pro-slavery House member from South Carolina beat an anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts at his desk. "That," he said, "was the last time our country was this divided."



The Big Dog's back

In a perfect world what you say would be right. But since we don't have a perfect world we have to be innovative to achieve fairness.


Re: "innovative"

Is that Marxist word magic for genocide?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Yes, innovation does drive us into the future and that is why we have to cast off these yokes of the past. Equality of outcome (in society) will never ever ever be achieved. Not because of some glass ceiling but because every single person is different. No one law, agency, or term can hope to tend to that in the immediacy let alone as generations change and their ideals and expectations with them. That change is occurring quicker than ever thanks to technology, which also facilities individualism. This is why we must reject these disingenuous labels. Will you join me in expecting a higher standard?

The Big Dog's back

I agree. In our society there will never be equality. Henry Ford had it right when he paid his people a decent wage so they could afford to buy the product they were making. We're not a country of individualism. If we were a country of total individualism we would have ceased to exist a long time ago. We realize not everyone is created equal, and that's why we have the social services. Remember, United we stand, Divided we fall.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I wouldn't want a completely individualistic society. That is anarchy, which is the perfect form of government...if you are the only one subject to it. There should be services offered and taxes paid, but the equal opportunity (not outcome) should be present. There is no way to actually dictate over every little circumstance, which is why education is so important. It teaches and trains the individuals to be the best of themselves they can be. To pursue opportunity, learn from tragedy, and find common bonds with each other where they overlap. That cannot nor should not ever be imposed.

It also requires trust in the populace that they are generally good and civil people. There will always be abusers of that trust. Despite a law against it, people will steal guns. They will overtly discriminate while hiring. Each are a sleight against the civil society, but those of us who live civil lives enjoy not being roped in with those offenders.

In North Korea the government has what is called "songbun" or a way to classify its citizens. It is based on all kinds of factors even to the point of the behavior of your relatives affecting your class. There are three classes: "core class", "wavering class", and "hostile class" (with something like 50 subdivisions). The government doesn't tell you which class you are in but treats you accordingly by withholding certain services or even food.

While I cannot directly compare the U.S. government to N.K.'s you can see the similarities. You can see the differences between a directed hard tyranny and well-intentioned soft tyranny. This is why the individual needs to be empowered with education and real life experiences. This is why the states need (and were intended to have) more power over their citizens than the Federal government. There is no way one entity can account for 320+ millions lives, geographic regions, cultural swathes, etc.

If companies can be too big to fail (and thusly broken up, restricted, or monitored) our government is already at that point and has been since before this president and the one before him, etc. So we must look to the empowerment of the individual citizen and the state with the burden our Federal government has saddled itself with leading to the CONSTANT bickering and nothing getting done save continuing resolutions to do things six months from now.

I want a better government, not necessarily "less" (or more to be fair), and the answer to a better government does not lie in a party, class, or other segregationist sect.


Re: "Henry Ford had it right when he paid his people a decent wage,"

Less than half of the story.

He ALSO required them to arrive at work ON TIME & SOBER!

An increase in productivity is necessary for increased compensation.


Re: "We're not a country of individualism."

You're not an individual? :)

The Big Dog's back

It's Congress's JOB to compromise with the President.


Re: "Congress's (sp)"

Correction: It's the duty of the elected branches of govt. to seek common ground.

Simpson-Bowles had enough for each party to dislike.

Pres. Obama dismissed it.



Congress' role is to legislate, and the president's role is to execute the laws they pass. Separation of powers was not intended to bring about compromise, but to do exactly what it's currently doing - making it difficult to wield government power.

The Big Dog's back

They are to legislate bills both sides can live with.


Let's see...the article headline said that most voters want Congress to seek out compromise. Most Republican members of Congress pride themselves on NOT compromising. This means that most Republican congressmen have a decided minority of voters supporting the way they do things.

This poll doesn't surprise me. They could have 90% of Americans against them, and they would still think and act as if they have a "mandate.


The last time there was anything near a 90% agreement on anything in this counrty was when WW2 was declared, or people were proud when John Glenn walked on the moon.

When folks exaggerate like this, is there any doubt that people are as divided as they are? We don't say there are disagreements, we say there are deadlocks and nothing can change that. It becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

If you wish to so biased in your statements I hope you don't expect anyone to take you seriously. Few people hold such strong beliefs on every issue as you seem to claim, most may have a few they hold so strongly but only a feew and the others they are willing to discuss, at least somewhat. You seem to think that people who don't share your political beliefs are all in lock step. It don't happen like that in real life.

The Big Dog's back

Even if it's just 50% why do 20% (right wingnuts) think they have a mandate?


Yes and 20% (left wingnuts) think they have a mandate. Why is that? Because the media and the wingnuts prefer to look at everything through that set of blinders. Why do you think your wingnuts are better than the other wingnuts? Neither are willing to compromise. Neither have the "mandate" that you speak of.

The Big Dog's back

What have the Dems not wanted to compromise on?


I certainly hope Americans don't agree that John Glenn walking on the moon is any matter of national pride! John Glenn never walked on the moon.


Doh!!!! Needed another cup of coffee before posting. Thanks.


Re: "they have a "mandate."

They control the HOR - i.e. mandate.

H*ll, Pres. Obama 'thinks' that he has a mandate with winning 51% of the vote in the 2012 Pres. election. :)

The Big Dog's back

Unlike you and your fellow right wingnuts the President is willing to compromise.


Yes we all saw his willingness to compromise when obamacare was written with only dems or their puppeteers allowed in the room when it was written, no amendments allowed to be made, 8 hours to read the law, before voting on 2300 pages in the bill. And then there was the time he told the republicans in congress that there were consequences to elections, when he had 60 Dem senators, and a majority in the house. We all saw how willing he is at compromise. His willingness to compromise is tempered to his need to do so, same as all the politicians. He is no different from the rest.

The Big Dog's back

You're wrong. The left wanted single payer. He compromised with Obamacare.


Yes the left wingnut 20% wanted single payer, so what? The rest of the left didn't. Why should 20% think they have a mandate? Are they compromising with the rest of the left and thinking that is compromise with the right?

The Big Dog's back

You're wrong again. The LEFT, all the left wanted single payer. The compromise was that it remained in the hands of private insurers.


Re: "all the left wanted single payer."

Kinda like Medicare which loses approx. $60 billion annually because of waste, fraud and abuse?


Sorry piddle puppy but the 20% wingnuts wanted single payer and the rest didn't. The wingnut left compromised with the rest of the left to get obamacare. As I stated before ONLY the left was behind the closed doors writing obamacare. They compromised with the only people there, the left wingnuts and the rest of the left. No one from the right was there.

For there to be comprimise the two parties need to be in the same room and discussing the bill. But that just might be beyond your ability to comprehend.

The Big Dog's back

Beyond your ability obviously. It was part of the platform at the DNC. Worry about YOUR right wingnuts who openly admit they do not want to compromise.


Yes the left's 20% wingnuts control the dims. Most don't want single payer or they would have passed such a bill. The dims had zero votes from repubes for obamacare. Why would they compromise and then get no votes from those they supposedly compromised with? They would have just voted in single payer if they had the votes for it. They compromised to be able to get enough dims to vote for obamacare. Single payer had no chance. Not a single repube voted for obamacare, the dims made a compromise with themselves to get it to pass.


Was hoping piddle puppy would try again. But since he hasn't, here is a little more information to rub his snout in it about his "all dims wanted single payer" lie.

Harry Reed had to pay off several dim Senators to get them to even vote for obamacare. They weren't goning to till he made additions to bills to pay them off. Remember the cornhusker kickback and the Louisianna purchase? he also had to pay off Bernie Sanders, and a few more just to get all the dims in line to buy into obamacare, they weren't going to vote for it. So much for what "all dims were for it". This was the compromise, it was between the wacco 20% of the wingnuts having to pay off a few of the dims who weren't interested in voting for obamacare.


Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback,” as the GOP is calling it, got all the attention Saturday, but other senators lined up for deals as Majority Leader Harry Reid corralled the last few votes for a health reform package.

Nelson’s might be the most blatant – a deal carved out for a single state, a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion for Nebraska, meaning federal taxpayers have to kick in an additional $45 million in the first decade.

But another Democratic holdout, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), took credit for $10 billion in new funding for community health centers, while denying it was a “sweetheart deal.” He was clearly more enthusiastic about a bill he said he couldn’t support just three days ago.

Nelson and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) carved out an exemption for non-profit insurers in their states from a hefty excise tax. Similar insurers in the other 48 states will pay the tax.

Vermont and Massachusetts were given additional Medicaid funding, another plus for Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Three states – Pennsylvania, New York and Florida – all won protections for their Medicare Advantage beneficiaries at a time when the program is facing cuts nationwide.

All of this came on top of a $300 million increase for Medicaid in Louisiana, designed to win the vote of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Under pressure from the White House to get a deal done by Christmas, Reid was unapologetic. He argued that, by definition, legislating means deal making and defended the special treatment for Nelson’s home state of Nebraska.

“You’ll find a number of states that are treated differently than other states. That’s what legislating is all about. It's compromise," he said.

The Big Dog's back

Comprehension issues pooh? I said all the left was for single payer, not Obamacare. Maybe try one of those herbal extracts to improve your comprehension abilities.