The debate over the looming federal government shutdown Monday was one-sided in Connecticut as Democrats aggressively tried to brand Republicans as irresponsible, while the GOP had no coordinated response.
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy each held press events reinforcing the message and strategy of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who opposed making concessions on Obamacare as the price of resolving the fiscal stalemate.
Blumenthal said the crisis was the fault of “a small fringe group of extremists in the House of Representatives” who are willing to hold the U.S. government hostage until the Obama administration agrees to dismantle or delay the Affordable Care Act.
“We can debate and consider improvements to the Affordable Care Act, but they should not be done as a condition of continuing the vital work of government,” Blumenthal said at a Glastonbury manufacturer.
“At some point, we have to draw a line in the stand that this is no way to run a railroad,” Murphy told reporters in a conference call. He referred to the GOP’s stance in Washington as “a temper tantrum.”
From the White House to the Senate majority to state Democrats, the Democratic message was consistent: The GOP is willing to imperil the fragile U.S. economy with a government shutdown over its opposition to the health-care law.
The absence of a coordinated Republican response was a measure of the party’s struggle at times to compete on message in Connecticut, where the GOP holds no statewide office or seat in Congress.
“Absolutely, no question about it. We need to do a much better job of messaging about what we stand for in Washington,” said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican who is exploring a run for governor in 2014.
Jerry Labriola, the GOP state chairman, said no one should be surprised that Democrats were more aggressive in Connecticut on the shutdown.
“They control all the federal offices in Connecticut, so their voices are going to be a little louder,” Labriola said.
Chris Healy, who preceded Labriola as the GOP chairman, said, “It’s an inside baseball issue now. The Democrats have a short-term advantage, because they can speak with one voice.”
Richard Foley, a former state chairman who is a consultant to the congressional campaign of Mark Greenberg in the 5th Congressional District, said the Democrats are working strenuously to frame an issue that may fizzle.
“It reminds me of Y2K,” he said. “Remember? Planes were going to fall out of the sky.”
When asked to comment by The Mirror, Labriola and others were quick to make the case that Democrats share in the blame for the fiscal standoff by refusing to considering delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
They said the focus of the press and public should be on the Democratic-controlled Senate as well as the Republican-controlled House.
“The U.S. Senate is controlled by radical fringe liberals who will always sell out the next generation to win an election,” Labriola said. “Murphy and Blumenthal take orders from this crowd.”
“I think there is blame to go around on both sides,” said state Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield, a Republican candidate for governor. “The latest offer to delay it a year is extremely reasonable.”
Republicans in Connecticut often are hobbled by the GOP’s national brand, especially on social issues, but Republicans interviewed Monday said they do not see themselves harmed by the government shutdown.
“I don’t feel that tension now, nor do I think we’ll see it in the coming gubernatorial race,” McKinney said.
Dan Debicella, a former Republican state senator from Shelton running for Congress in the 4th District, said the stalemate is a liability for incumbents.
“People are getting sick of Washington games. This isn’t a Republican or a Democratic thing. I think people are sick of both parties and the inflexibility they are showing,” Debicella said.
The politics of the stalemate have little downside for challengers, he said.
“I don’t think this is going to be something that’s going to hurt the Republican Party, I think it’s going to hurt all incumbents in Washington,” he said. “And it just so happens all our incumbent in Washington are Democrats.”