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R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Conservatives say they need it in shutdown debate

By Tom Cohen, CNN
updated 12:12 PM EDT, Fri October 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Conservative Republicans want their voices heard in Congress
  • GOP Rep. Michael Grimm: Caving to the Senate again "sets a bad precedent"
  • The tea party wing demands anti-Obamacare provisions in a deal
  • Frustration over the shutdown heats up the political rhetoric

Washington (CNN) -- The great government shutdown of 2013 is about Obamacare and budget priorities, but it also is about respect.

In short, conservative House Republicans don't think they get enough of it from President Barack Obama and the Senate.

"Republicans are now in a position where they don't want to cave in because it sets a bad precedent that the Senate would be somewhat dictating how the House runs," GOP Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said this week.

Conservative Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana went further, telling the Washington Examiner that "we're not going to be disrespected."

"We have to get something out of this," he said. "And I don't know what that even is."

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John Boehner vs. Nancy Pelosi

Stutzman's office confirmed that he said it but issued a statement Thursday in which the congressman said he "carelessly misrepresented the ongoing budget debate."

Obama, however, said Stutzman's comment reflected "reckless" tactics by House Republicans pursuing a purely partisan agenda instead of fulfilling the basic responsibility of Congress to fund the government.

"If you're being disrespected, it's because of that attitude you've got, that you deserve to get something for doing your job," Obama said at a campaign-style event Thursday in Rockville, Maryland.

At issue is a short-term spending plan that would fund the government in the new fiscal year that started Tuesday.

The congressional stalemate pits a conservative GOP wing that wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act against Democrats trying to protect Obama's landmark health care reforms passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court last year.

Add to that the longstanding resentment by GOP conservatives who say their constituents and views are ignored by Democrats and the mainstream media, which also motivates their stand to link funding the government to dismantling Obamacare.

In particular, they want to halt the pattern of the Republican-led House being forced to accede to the will of Obama and the Democratic-led Senate, as occurred in the past year over emergency funding in response to Superstorm Sandy and when Congress voted to raise tax rates on high-income Americans despite a conservative pledge against any tax increases.

However, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have rejected GOP efforts to use the government funding issue and upcoming debt ceiling deadline as leverage in seeking partisan goals such as dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

An unclear GOP strategy also has opened conservatives to criticism that their demands created a path to the shutdown without a way of getting out.

Reid told CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash on Thursday that tea party conservatives he described as "anarchists" were setting the GOP agenda, with Boehner going along because he feared that he would otherwise lose his leadership post.

Not true, countered Republican Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who said Boehner was "in charge of the House."

"The House is supposed to be boisterous," Lankford said. "It's the area closest to the people. It's a boisterous place, and it has definitely become that as all these voices have to work together to find a coalition."

Now, House conservatives take umbrage with the heated rhetoric from Obama and Reid as frustration has risen with the government shutdown.

Reid also said Boehner lacked courage for refusing to hold a House vote on the Senate-passed "clean" spending plan -- one with no anti-Obamacare provisions -- that would end the government shutdown.

Obama also challenged Boehner on the issue, saying Thursday that the shutdown would end immediately if Boehner allowed such a vote.

"Put it on the floor and let every individual member of Congress make up their own minds, and they can show the American people are you for a shutdown or not," Obama said, adding that House Republicans need to stop what he called careening from crisis to crisis instead of fulfilling their congressional responsibilities.

Grimm said Thursday that such criticism harms the prospects for negotiating some kind of agreement.

"If you want a deal done in the boardroom, you don't assault people before you walk in," he said, adding that "you're talking about human beings" and noting, "The speaker is a human being, too."

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