My congressman, securely gerrymandered in Ohio’s 4th District, was a key player in the recent government shutdown and threatened default on the U.S. debt. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, is a hard-line conservative.
With a small group of other tea party favorites in the House, Mr. Jordan brought the federal government to a halt and the debt limit increase to a last-minute showdown. Standard and Poor’s chief economist estimated that the 16-day government shutdown and debt-limit standoff cost the economy $24 billion.
Playing race-against-the-clock with default in the United States is highly unsettling to world markets. Yet in a few months, it could happen again.
Another inept attempt at crisis management on Capital Hill could result in another federal shutdown in January and another risk of default in February. An increasingly influential faction of far-right Republicans in the House, bolstered by zealous leaders — including Mr. Jordan — is gearing up for another fight.
“We’ll have to see how it plays out,” Mr. Jordan said. “January 15th [when government funding runs out] will be here pretty quick, and February 7th for [raising] the debt ceiling is around the corner as well.
“We were standing up and doing exactly what the folks we represent, the families and taxpayers and business we represent, wanted us to do,” he said, “which is, address the underlying debt problem and treat people fairly and equally under the [health reform] law. What we need to do is continue to make this argument, take our case to the American people, and hope it progresses in Congress.”
In a lengthy phone conversation from Iowa, where he was on the road after the shutdown and standoff on the debt ended, Mr. Jordan was unapologetic about what triggered the government paralysis.
“We’ve got out-of-control spending and did nothing to address the big problem,” he said. “We didn’t address the unfair, unequal treatment that takes place in Obamacare.
“That was always the thrust of this, and unfortunately we didn’t prevail with the debate and the vote,” Mr. Jordan told me. “No one ever wanted a shutdown. No one ever wanted to go past a date that the Treasury had established.
“What we wanted was equal treatment under the law [Affordable Care Act], and recognition that if you keep doing it [budget funding] this way we will never address the $17 trillion debt problem,” he said.
Last August, Mr. Jordan co-sponsored legislation that would have funded the government for a year while delaying and defunding the health reform law until 2015.
House Republicans argue that it’s unfair for large corporations to be so exempted from providing health care or paying fines under the new law without doing the same for the individual mandate that requires nearly all Americans to acquire health insurance.
“We thought that [the legislation] was very reasonable and where we wanted to start,” Mr. Jordan said.
“Could there be criticism that we didn’t communicate that [during the shutdown] in a compelling and articulate fashion? In hindsight, sure,” he said. “You can always Monday morning quarterback.”
But the 49-year-old lawmaker disputes any schism within the GOP ranks. “I have frankly never seen our conference more united,” he said.
“All those votes we took [to scuttle the health reform law], all the 14 different bills [subsequently rejected by the Senate] where we funded all or part of the government, we had 230-some votes for every single one of those,” Mr. Jordan said. “That was as unified as you have ever seen the Republican Party in the House of Representatives.”
He sidestepped queries about whether Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, helped or hurt the cause. He brushed off speculation about the future of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio: “No one’s talking about that and no one should talk about that.”
Mr. Jordan added: “What the Republican Party did, what members of the House did, we stood up for the principles. Standing for principle is always a good thing to do — and I’m going to continue to do that.”
My congressman isn’t sure whether the government shutdown was “that big of a deal outside of Washington,” but acknowledged that the ultimate losers from the political tumult were the American people.
I couldn’t agree with him more.