Phil Gingrey represents Georgia's 11th congressional district
He is among the lawmakers supporting the shutdown
"He's standing up for what he believes," a constituent says
Chrissy Gibson makes no apologies for her support.
Sure, she is upset her friends who work for the federal government have been furloughed. And yes, she dislikes that her family’s favorite hiking spot at one of Georgia’s premier national parks has been closed by the budget battle.
But she stands by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, one of the approximately 40 tea party and conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives considered the architects of the government shutdown aimed at dismantling or defunding the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare.
For many, Gingrey and these other lawmakers are responsible for furloughing hundreds of thousands of federal workers, closing national parks and monuments and shuttering federal research. But for many of those in their districts – people like Gibson and her family – these representatives are soldiers in a battle of principle, standing up to an out-of-control government.
“He’s standing up for what he believes, and somebody has to do that,” said Gibson, 37.
With the government shutdown that began October 1 in its second week, there was little question the country was beginning to feel the financial squeeze.
A CNN/ORC International survey released this week found that although slightly more people were angry at Republicans than Democrats or President Barack Obama for the shutdown, both sides were taking a hit.
According to the poll conducted over the weekend, 63% of respondents said they were angry at the Republicans for the way they have handled the shutdown, while 57% expressed anger at Democrats and 53% at Obama.
“It looks like there is more than enough blame to go around, and both parties are being hurt by the shutdown,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
‘What my district wants’
But the national anger is unlikely to change the position of these conservative Republicans.
Just ask Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who was elected to Congress in 2012. He told reporters that his support for the shutdown was simple: “All that really matters is what my district wants. And my district is overwhelmingly in favor of my position.”
Or ask Rep. Mark Meadows, who represents the western part of North Carolina.
“My job first is to make sure I represent the people back home,” Meadows told CNN recently. “I don’t believe that when I get here that people expect me to look at the political implications. That’s for somebody else to focus on.”
Gingrey has been a frontrunner among those in Congress working to overturn Obama’s signature health care law that passed in 2010 when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.
“A majority of Americans think Obamacare will make health care in our country worse, and they’re right,” the 71-year-old Gingrey said recently.
His stance against the Affordable Care Act has earned him an enormous amount of support among his constituents in Georgia’s 11th Congressional District, which covers the northwest suburbs of Atlanta.
Nowhere is the government shutdown more on display in Gingrey’s district than in Kennesaw, a city of about 30,000 that is home to federal employees and military personnel from nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.
It’s also apparent at the popular Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, where black metal gates have been chained. A sign posted on the gates announces the park’s closure, citing the government shutdown.
Closing ‘the mountain’
Among locals, it’s simply known as “the mountain,” a place where outdoor enthusiasts come by the thousands to use the dog-friendly park’s miles and miles of hiking and walking trails.
Standing outside the gate, Janet Kamautz, 36, looked toward the nearly empty park where a handful of people entered using pedestrian walkways.
“I applaud him for what he’s doing,” she said of Gingrey’s stance.
The 36-year-old homemaker from Kennesaw said she knows the spending bill stalled in Congress has nothing to do with Affordable Care Act.
But there needs to be a conversation about it, Kamautz said.
“It can’t be one-sided. Right now, it’s (Obama’s) way or no way,” she said.
Kamautz pointed to the park, saying its closure was a scare tactic.
“Why would you close a park?” she said. “… It’s a big thing that says the government shut down.”
Of the 32 families in Gibson’s neighborhood, she knows of a number – all federal workers – hit by the government shutdown.
Turning to her 10-year-old son, Ty, Gibson asks: “How many of your friends’ dads are home right now?”
Ty counts on his fingers: One. Two. Three. Maybe four.
Gibson knows another five or six people, mostly friends, who have been classified as “non-essential” federal employees. They have been furloughed, she said.
“I’m not happy about it. My friends are out of work, and I hate that this is happening to them,” she said.
The Gibsons expect their small telecommunications business will take a hit as a result of the government shutdown.
“When people don’t get paid, they can’t pay their long-distance bill. So, yeah, we are going to feel it if this goes on,” Gibson said.
But the Gibsons also expect to feel a financial pinch with the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Today, she said, she pays $16,000 a year to cover her family, including her husband and three children. The family doesn’t expect to get a financial break with the new insurance requirements. In fact, Gibson said, her family expects to pay more.
Gingrey, Gibson said, is fighting on behalf of her family.
“Yes, I’ll vote for him again,” she said.