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Work it out: Main Street fed up over Beltway shutdown battle

By Paul Steinhauser, Ben Brumfield and Allie Malloy, CNN
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013
A Park Service police officer stands guard in front of the Lincoln Memorial during a partial shutdown of the federal government in November 1995. Many government services and agencies were closed at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996 as President Bill Clinton battled a Republican-led Congress over spending levels. A Park Service police officer stands guard in front of the Lincoln Memorial during a partial shutdown of the federal government in November 1995. Many government services and agencies were closed at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996 as President Bill Clinton battled a Republican-led Congress over spending levels.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The federal government is heading toward a possible shutdown next week
  • Most Americans don't want that to happen, think politicians need to find a solution
  • "Our country was founded on a great compromise," said one man in Louisiana
  • If there was a shutdown, more voters would blame Republicans than Democrats, polls show

Washington (CNN) -- As the country spirals toward a possible government shutdown in less than a week, most Americans, according to polls, are frustrated by the partisan stubbornness and don't want that shutdown to happen.

"Our country was founded on a great compromise," Casey Fos, a lawyer from New Orleans suburb of Covington, Louisiana, tells CNN.

In this showdown toward the shutdown, public opinion is a crucial factor, and the latest national surveys also suggest that Democrats and Republicans have numbers to bolster their arguments.

Shutdown showdown moves to Senate

A shutdown of the government would kick in if Congress doesn't hammer out a new spending plan by Tuesday, the start of the new federal budget year. Republicans in the House have tied any deal to defunding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Americans want compromise

Government's latest shutdown showdown
See some of Ted Cruz's marathon remarks
Rick Santorum: 'I would be with Ted Cruz'

Two polls released Monday indicate that a majority of Americans want their lawmakers to compromise rather than stick to their principles. Fifty-seven percent of those questioned in a Pew Research Center poll say they want lawmakers to compromise with one in three saying members of Congress should stand by their principles even if the government shuts down.

And the public, by a 53%-25% margin, say it is more important for political leaders in Washington to compromise rather than sticking to their beliefs, according to a Gallup poll.

8 answers on Obamacare and the shutdown

But some people outside of the nation's capital that CNN spoke with this week don't see much evidence of compromise going on inside the Beltway.

"I think they are playing 'Battleship,'" said Kate Koert, a financial controller from Atlanta.

Ryan Long of Portland, Oregon, would love to see some compromise, but he laments that "I really don't think they can. I think each side is so entrenched now and the polarization is so high."

Not much love for a shutdown

The Senate this week is debating a bill passed along party lines Friday by the Republican-led House that would continue funding the federal government over the next three months but also defunds Obamacare. Senate Democrats vow to strip out the portion of the measure that would defund the health care law.

Conservative freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, engaged in a marathon protest speech on the floor of the Senate overnight to put a spotlight on the tea party push to stop the new health care law.

"I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand," he said Tuesday as he began more than 19 hours of talking.

Meanwhile, many Americans just don't get it.

"I think allowing our government to shut down is insane," says Paul Mehner, a software architect and president of a small company from Olympia, Washington. "On the one hand, I really would like to see Obamacare killed. On the other hand, I don't think anything good is going to come about shutting down the government."

The shutdown, debt limit and Obamacare

Public opinion polling seems to backup Mehner's sentiments.

Half of those questioned in the Pew poll say they oppose the House Republican measure that funding for the 2010 health care law be cut off as part of any budget agreement, with 28% supporting the GOP push to defund Obamacare.

More than eight in ten questioned in a CBS/New York Times poll released Wednesday said threatening a government shutdown is not an acceptable way to negotiate over the budget.

According to a CNBC All-America Economic Survey also released Monday, by a 44%-38% plurality, Americans oppose defunding the health care law, with opposition rising to 59% when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting on its debt is included in the question.

More than six in 10 in a United Technologies/National Journal/Congressional Connection poll say Congress should provide funding for the government and deal with the health care issue separately.

And while 52% of those questioned in an ABC News/Washington Post poll released late last week said they opposed the Affordable Care Act, only 27% supported shutting down the government to prevent implementation of the law.

Blame game

If there is a shutdown, fingers will be pointed.

Heidi Heinisch, a sales support associate from Atlanta, says she'd blame the president at first, but adds that in the end, she'd also blame Congress.

"The House and the Senate," says Kayla Miller, from Gainesville, Florida.

"Congress," Mehner agrees.

Fos says fault would lay with the GOP.

"The Republican majority in the House has handled it poorly," he adds.

But in Atlanta, Koert says it's the public's fault: "In the end, we the people are. We should demand competent representation."

When it comes to the blame game, the Pew survey indicates the public is divided, with 39% saying Republicans should shoulder more blame if there's a government shutdown, and 36% saying the Obama administration would be responsible. The National Journal poll had the same numbers in a question that asked about Republicans in general.

But according to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted earlier this month, which asked respondents to choose between Obama and the Republicans in Congress, rather than all Republicans, only a third of respondents would consider Obama responsible for a shutdown, with 51% pointing a finger at congressional Republicans.

10 ways a government shutdown would affect your daily life

While there might not be consensus when it comes to the blame game, there is when it comes to the severity of a shutdown. More than six in 10 questioned in the Pew poll say that a shutdown would have a major effect on the U.S. economy, with nearly three in four questioned in the CNN survey saying if a shutdown lasted a few weeks, the country would face either major problems or a crisis.

"It's bad for everyone," Fos says. "I am very worried about basic services being affected."

But Darryl Whitehead of Atlanta isn't buying it: "They're not going to shut down. They always come down to the 11th hour and come up with a solution."

While most of the findings on the shutdown may not give Republicans trying to defund the health care law all that much to crow about, they have a silver lining when it comes to the popularity of the 2010 health care law. Besides the 52% in the ABC News/Washington Post poll who said they opposed the measure, 55% say they disapprove of the way the Obama administration is implementing the law. And 39% of those questioned in the CNN/ORC survey said they favored all or most of the provisions in the law, down from 51% in January.

"I'm not sold on the Affordable Healthcare Act," said Koert, adding that she's "not sold that it is affordable or well-planned."

Mehner says he's against the health care law because of what he thinks it will cost him: "For me as a personal individual, it's the non-Affordable Healthcare Act."

Hines disagrees, saying that "I am a contractor who does not have affordable healthcare, and Obamacare was going to help me out."

CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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