By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
HOWE —The country is now entering day six of a partial government shutdown that appears no closer to a resolution as ongoing talks between Congressional Democrats and Republicans seem only to be hardening their already hard-line stances.
Republicans in the House, lead by a core of Tea Party conservatives, are insisting that President Barack Obama either change or completely repeal the controversial Affordable Care Act — known by many as Obamacare — as part of the price for ending the shutdown.
Obama, however, has continuously refused to consider any such compromise on the health care law.
Without such a compromise, Congress has until Oct. 17 to renew the government’s authority to borrow money or risk a first-ever federal default — an outcome with the potential to significantly shake both the national and world economies.
While the issue has sparked conversations on both the national and international scale, one of the most vocal advocates for continuing the government shutdown until Obamacare is changed or defunded is someone right here at home, U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana’s third congressional district.
Stutzman, a Republican whose district includes LaGrange, Noble and Kosciusko counties, was elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and has since accumulated a strongly conservative record in Congress.
While Stutzman has never been shy about his feelings toward Obamacare, that unabashedly vocal denouncing of the health care law got him into some hot water Wednesday when he released the statement: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
House Democrats quickly latched onto the statement, saying such apparent lack of knowledge regarding what the conflict is even about highlights what many supporters of the ACA feel is the problem with the largely Tea Party-inspired call to shut down the federal government. Stutzman quickly issued a follow-up statement Thursday apologizing for his previous comments.
What the people say
In the interest of seeing just how Stutzman’s constituents feel about the unfolding drama and Stutzman’s staunch support of using the government shutdown as a tool for compromise on the health care law, The News recently made a trip to LaGrange County to hear a sampling of what those who live and work in the area had to say about the issue.
Lorri Boughton, an employee of J&J Discounts in Howe, said she isn’t happy with Stutzman’s role in the government shutdown, adding she does not feel holding the nation’s economy hostage is the right tactic for getting the health car law changed.
“I think they need to just get on with it and lift the shutdown,” Boughton said. “It doesn’t matter if the ACA is good or bad. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand. They should not be combining the two at all, and making the ACA’s repeal a requirement for getting the government running again is absolutely wrong.”
Eric Troyer, an employee of the Dollar General Store in Howe, said he supports Stutzman’s call to defund Obamacare, but does not feel a government shutdown is the way to go about it.
“I feel like if they had just listened to how people felt in the beginning, then we really wouldn’t be going through what’s happening now, because I feel like a majority of people didn’t really want (the ACA) in the first place,” Troyer said. “As for the shutdown, I don’t really support that, because it’s kind of like forcing people to do what you want by threatening them with something worse. I think they should probably try to keep those separate, because it’s affecting a ton of people.”
Linda Winkler, a resident of LaGrange, said she agrees with what Stutzman is doing, but can see both sides of the issue.
“I agree with what he’s doing, because I don’t think it’s really working out the way Obama said it would,” Winkler said of the ACA. “People who don’t have insurance, I know it’s hard, and I feel sorry for them, but I don’t like how Obama’s making it a mandate that people have to have insurance. I like the idea that they’re trying to help the people that can’t help themselves, but at the same time, if you keep helping them and helping them, they’re never going to learn how to do it themselves. So I can see it both ways.”
As for Robin Tuttle, owner of the Robin’s Nest Floral & Gift Shop in LaGrange, Stutzman’s stance on Obamacare and the shutdown is right on the money.
“I’m all for the shutdown until they can do something to try to get rid of Obamacare,” Tuttle said. “I know it’s supposed to be the non-essential government that was shut down, and I believe in general there’s a lot of non-essential government out there right now that we shouldn’t even have. So for me, I say keep it shut down until we can get something resolved with Obamacare.”
Tuttle said she also does not believe most voters knew what they were getting into when they supported the ACA.
“I think a lot of people were like, ‘Yay, I can get free insurance now.’ But you’re still paying for it. And if you can’t pay for it, you’re going to be paying for it through your taxes. So nothing’s free, and I think many voters were misinformed when voting for it. So I’m all for getting rid of it.”
As for whether she feels the efforts of Stutzman and his fellow Republicans in Congress will be successful in the end, Tuttle said she’s hopeful, though at this point it’s anyone’s guess.
“I hope it will be successful, but I’m afraid that if it goes on for too many weeks, then somebody’s going to have to back down and say, ‘OK, lets get the government running again,” Tuttle said. “So we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”