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."




Polls should show that the majority of Americans want Congress & their kind to get PAY CUTS. The people do not need to overcompensate them anymore.


Nah, why would they need to take a pay cut? They are doing a great job of bringing down the deficit by taking away from the military and benefits of retired military. The only military personnel that are getting an increase in benefits are gays. They need nothing more than a signed statement attesting that they are in a committed relationship to get the same benefits as married couples. I wonder how long before opposite sex couples will be able to obtain the same benefits without being married. As far as I know, military law still says cohabitation is illegal.


To paraphrase William F. Buckley, Jr.:

I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first five hundred and thirty five names in the Sandusky telephone directory than in a society governed by the five hundred and thirty five members of Congress.

Compromise? How do you compromise with greedy, thieving collectivists?


"...little political incentive many Republicans have to reach common ground on issues ranging from immigration to the budget."

So it is the Republicans that have to compromise? Why not the Democrats?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Yeah I thought this article was very disingenuous. Apparently ONLY Republicans have to explain things to their voters in town hall, ONLY Republicans have to defend and explain their decisions. ONLY Republicans must be the ones giving Congress a low approval rating. I'm not a banner-carrier for the Republicans any more than Democrats but this kind of obvious slant is exactly why the stereotype of the media exists.

The Big Dog's back

Oh please hero. You're about this much from being a right wingnut.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I appreciate the compliment of not being a nut. My point still stands. Per this article, where is it mentioned that Democrats have to answer to their constituents? Their exclusion is either neglectful reporting or purposeful to some unspoken, presumed end. Which is it? Incompetent, one-sided reporting or an article written with a destructive agenda for one party and not the others?

I am by no means BFFs with the Republican party and I actually don't mind them being vetted. I'll repeat: HOLD THEM RESPONSIBLE! But to presume that Democrats are perfect Master Race children who are perfect in every way with policies that are airtight and a lockstep constituency is absurd. They should be vetted just as much and not given passes, ignored, or otherwise thrown softballs.

In the context of this one article, without a complimentary one, it is clear there is something going on here. Since the answer to that is not in the article itself it can only lead us to wonder.

Do you feel all Democrats are above reproach? I should hope not, but I would value your opinion.

Pterocarya frax...

Why would this article talk about democrats? It is written entirely about one Republican, and what he is experiencing. What the story clearly points out is that Republicans would rather work on getting reelected than working on the problems of the country.

If you want the counterpoint, go out and interview Marcy Kaptur and write about it.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Already met with a rep of hers and had a conversation months ago. After what I was told by him to be an insightful and productive meeting which would result in notes from it being presented to her, I sent a followup email to make another time to meet with him or even the Representative herself. I am waiting weeks and weeks now for a reply. So, I am ahead of you on this one. I appreciate the suggestion, though! Everyone should participate as much as they can in local, state, and federal matters and contact your elected officials.

Really are you ...

Who the ? is members of congress representing? I thought that they were filling elected positions. Positions that they are filling, were voted on by the people of the State that they are representing. All members of congress that do not support the ideas from the people of the State from which they came from need to step down and let some one in that will support the State from which they came. Send those congressmen and /or congresswomen who forgot where they came from to China, Mexico, or some third world country. That seems to be who they are supporting. With no retirement or severance pay from the United States. They have held their congressional seats long enough to have made enough money to live like kings and queens in those countries they are supporting.

If they work, I hope they love their working wages and healthcare.


... I don't think YOU know the Scope of things, let me explain, if you are at the ripe old age of 54 or less, your Republican buddies in congress voted for you to work until your 70 before you can get medicare. Oh you can collet social security at the age of 67, but no medical untill your 70. Have fun waking up.


Not sure how you came up with 70. Eligibility starts at 65 as explained at the Medicare web site www.medicare.gov


Oh YESSSS, if You read futher what your looking at is retiement 2014. It does not show, lets do some easy math, age 54 or younger, 70 minus 54 = 16 er' 16 years or ADD 16 to 2013 = 2029. So if you are at the prime age 54 or younger Sorry bout your luck.
If which my brother age 66 could not collect medicare untill age 66, not 65.


Re: "Oh YESSSS,"

Which is why it is a proven Ponzi scheme - ya gotta change the rules for the later beneficiaries in order to keep it goin'.

If a private co. operated Medicare (SS also), the govt. would shutter the co. and bring the officers up on criminal charges.


Thanks for the info.... completely missed that little event. Oh well, back to work work work

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

If you are 30 or less you see these programs as insolvent jokes that probably won't be around for us when we survive to that age.

The Big Dog's back

Only in your right leaning mind.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

So all of the diverse 20-30-somethings I speak to are imaginary friends? The current leadership are too busy p*ssing in the wind to actually do something to fix this. Have you looked at your SS statement lately? What's the date that it goes bankrupt again? Yup, right about the time we are set to retire.

If you got yours, that's great. Take it. Spend it. Save it. You win! But for us? When NOBODY is doing anything to address the situation? Yeah, it becomes a topic of ridicule, mistrust, and a joke. It's pretty sad when one generation has to wait for another to die out in order to fix the problems that are presented to us because that older generation is politically impotent.

The Big Dog's back

It's not set to go bankrupt. Where do you get your info on SS?

AJ Oliver

The GOP is out to destroy the middle and working classes, and many democrats are going along. The Tea Party crazy-a__ ideas are supported by 25% of the people. That 25% are stooges for the One Percent. Simpson-Bowles would AGAIN redistribute income upward. Wake up indeed!!

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,"


Re: "Simpson-Bowles"

The Pres. commissioned the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and then TOTALLY ignored it.

Typical of his modus operandi - Talk much, act little.

It could have been a starting point – but NO.

His act of b*tchin’ about Repubs works better with his dumbed-down constituency.


The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Please define the middle class and working class.

The Big Dog's back

In your mind what do you consider working and middle classes.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I don't feel compelled to classify human beings. I don't know their circumstances. I don't know nor do I care how much money they make, how many kids (if any) they have, or how much they spend on groceries. They all deserve the same amount of dignity.

"Middle class" is a worthless phrase. Funny how NO politicians on either side define it yet they can't help but use it in their verbal diarrhea just presuming, "well people don't want to feel poor but they don't want to be seen as rich so they'll just consider themselves middle class if I don't define it, nobody will ever question it!"

Classification is segregation, it is also a meaningless medium to state your points because your audience isn't defined and are probably tired of being called names or treated like a science experiment.

"I'm for middle class tax reform." SOUNDS AWESOME! Yeah?! So what does that mean? What is this "middle class"? What is the tax reform you want this broad, undefined, nebulous group to have? Isn't it amazing? Like a magic trick. My middle class tax reform just supposedly affects you, me, that other guy, that girl over there, and everyone else who just make presumptions they fit those gossamer words.

Oh...but when the law is passed? Sorry. You weren't "middle class enough" to qualify because you have too little/much money. Sorry, you thought you were middle class? Well, that's your fault. Oh? Did we forget to specify that out of the infinite expanse of middle class we only meant THIS type of middle class or THAT type of middle class?

Don't you see how degrading, deceptive, and ambiguous this is all at the same time? Why do you allow this kind of segregation to continue in the United States? Why don't you ask questions of lawmakers of any political orientation to actually be specific and instead of saying throwaway terms like "middle class tax reform" and actually ask for details.

"Who gets it? What must be done to qualify? Where is this reform occurring, specifically?"

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH it is so darn frustrating!!!


@ The Hero Zone:


The avg. income in the U.S. is $47K.

In a world where most of the population earns $1-$2.00 per diem, that puts most Americans in the TOP ONE PERCENT in the world.

Yet still they b*tch.

We are a nation of "Haves" & "Have Mores."


The Big Dog's back

Another koch brothers talking point.

The Big Dog's back

To answer your question the working class are the people whose backs this country was built on and continues to run on. Your laborers, your teachers, your police and firemen.

The Big Dog's back

People long before you and me set up the class system. More specific, rich people set up the class system. It was just the rich and the poor. That's where the middle came in with the labor union movement.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I appreciate your response and opinion. Based on your definition it does seem that this so-called middle class is actually still vague and broad. It is meaningless to call people middle class or working class. I sell comics and games and I very much believe I could fit the "working" definition. You may disagree, and that's fine. That actually just proves my point. This class structure was also set up in a bygone age from perhaps what we can both agree to be (in today's context) corrupt people or at least those whose morality would be called into question today.

Stand with me, Big Dog. Reject these terms. Call out "bullspit" every time you hear any political use that phrase. I do. Unless we expect a higher standard of service (and elect them, regardless of party) we will always be thrown back into darker, worse times.

Aren't you sick and tired of being called segregational names by people or being duped into thinking something is for you when it will never be? You are obviously a passionate guy and I would love nothing more than to see you use your bark and your bite to end this old, tired phraseology. You'll find that young pups like myself and others will join you and actually rally under one banner despite other kinds of lifestyles or disagreements.


Re: "It is meaningless to call people middle class or working class."

They are Marxist-Leninist terms used to divide and manipulate the masses toward socialism.

H*ll, the term "capitalist" is a Marxian term.