Government shutdown defeats GOP

By Kristin LaFratta

Though the government shutdown has ended and federal workers have returned to their jobs, recent reports show that Republicans are still suffering in its aftermath. David Kaufman, president of the University of Massachusetts Republicans Club, believes that Republicans were right in their goals, but used poor political tactics.

Rich Renomeron/Flickr

The 16-day shutdown occurred when the GOP-controlled House of Representatives refused to negotiate on a spending bill that derailed funding to the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.” Recent polling results reveal drastic declines in public support of the Republican Party, which comes as no surprise to Kaufman.

“Because we used Obamacare as an ultimatum kind of thing, the American public just kind of saw us as the obstructionists and didn’t see what we were trying to accomplish,” Kaufman said. “And I don’t blame them.”

Kaufman, a junior finance major at UMass, has worked on campaigns for Republicans such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. In addition to leading the UMass Republicans Club, Kaufman serves as the treasurer of the statewide Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans, which unites all of the college Republican Club chapters in the state.

According to a CNN poll conducted post-shutdown during Oct. 18-20,  56 percent of citizens opposed Obamacare, yet 54 percent of those polled still said the Republican-controlled House is bad for the United States. Nearly a year prior in December 2012, 51 percent of citizens believed the opposite, that a House controlled by Republicans was good for the country.

Kaufman said that he does not believe Republicans will win back the Senate in 2014 because they focused too heavily on the issue of funding Obamacare, when they should have promoted budget cuts to welfare programs such as food stamps.

“I think if they discussed something like entitlement reform, they would have gotten a lot more support rather from the American public,” he said. “I don’t think the average American is going to understand the correlation between Obamacare and what was going on in terms of the budget crisis.”

While many, including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, have blamed the GOP for the shutdown, some argue that President Obama is at fault for refusing to compromise. Kaufman argues that both parties are at fault.

“Our congressmen are pretty inept at the moment in terms of compromising on a single thing, on both sides,” Kaufman said. “No side is not guilty of this.”

The issue of Obamacare is hotly contested across the country. According to the Obamacare Facts website, the act is intended to create a marketplace for citizens to purchase “regulated, subsidized private insurance,” and cost assistance is determined by income.

“I think it’s a waste of money,” Kaufman said. He believes that Obamacare will negatively affect both small businesses and the employment rate, because businesses will cut full-time employees in order to avoid providing health insurance.

Kaufman said that, if he were in the Senate, he would start earlier instead of waiting to make eleventh-hour deals. “They know these dates are coming up for weeks and yet they make it into this big soap opera and do it an hour before.”

While Kaufman said that he felt 16 days was too long, he also thought the shutdown was needed to make a statement.

“When we’re forced to live within our means, the government can do it and just needs someone to push it,” he said.

The real push for resolution came from a deadline that threatened the Congress’ means to borrow money. A reluctant group of Republicans helped pass a solution to reopen the government and lift the debt limit through February, where the ordeal could possibly recur.

“I think the government shutdown was somewhat necessary,” Kaufman said. He added that, when it comes to the polarization in Congress, “it is definitely frustrating.”


Kristin LaFratta can be reached at [email protected]