As the U.S. Government shutdown entered its second week and a debt ceiling deadline loomed 48 hours away, U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) took to CNN to share his views on the shutdown.
Denham was the featured guest on a CNN special Monday evening, “Shutdown Showdown,” highlighted by a pointed interview with the Congressman.
“I'm hopeful that it is actually going to be a brighter day tomorrow, and we see both parties working together,” Denham said.
Progress was made on Monday, with the U.S. Senate nearing a compromise deal that would fund the government until Jan. 15, and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 8. The compromise would meet some Democrats' demands, by keeping funding from falling to the ultra-low levels demanded by the sequester, and would make Republicans happy with the short-term funding extension forcing further negotiations.
The compromise may also address some aspects of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, with income verification for subsidies and the delay of an employee fee.
“To me personally, it's extremely important that we stop the shutdown and avoid this debt ceiling cliff,” Denham said, noting he was encouraged by the conversations.
But many details of the compromise remained to be hammered out, as of Monday evening. And the bill's fate with Republican legislators may hinge on those items still in flux.
“It's going to depend on those details,” Denham said.
Denham said his vote won't depend on the give-and-take calculus of Democrat earmarks versus Republican cutbacks, but on the inclusion of some mandated long-term planning. Both parties need to be forced to come together, to draft a plan for the future of America, he said.
Reportedly, the compromise may force legislators from both parties to negotiate a budget by Dec. 13. But that deadline would need to have “teeth” in it, Denham said, to ensure that legislators truly do work together.
Such an effort may result in a budget, the nation's first in five years. And the planning would need to get the debt under control, Denham said, noting the importance of reducing the national debt to his constituents.
“My concern is always the debt, the debt my kids are going to have to take on,” Denham said.
Republicans also have an interest in getting the government moving again, after their polling numbers have fallen dangerously low. According to one poll, 74 percent of Americans disapprove of Republicans in Congress.
“We're at an all-time low right now. That's horrible for us, but certainly even worse for the country. We've got to find ways to work together,” Denham said.
The shutdown should have “never gotten to this point,” Denham said. It was intended only as a strategy to get both sides to talk, he said, and to come together to work out crucial issues.
“We're trying to find any opportunity we can to get this President to engage,” Denham said.
CNN commentators pointed out that the political move could cost Denham his job. The California 10th District, which he represents, is one of only a few swing districts left; most Republican districts are so heavily red that constituencies support dragging out the shutdown and refusing to compromise with Democrats.
It creates a challenging dynamic, Denham said, where he could support one path to echo his middle-of-the-road district's desires while the more partisan Republican leadership would prefer another. And there's no pressure for the Democrats and Republicans to work together without labels, he said, as each are so insulated in one-sided districts.
Already, Democrats have begun airing attack ads aimed at Denham's role in the shutdown. And his presumptive challenger, Micheal Eggman, has released a poll which shows Denham may lose reelection, though Denham's campaign has said the poll is not accurate.
Though the challenges may be many, Denham shrugged them off, noting he has a job to do.
“I'm not necessarily concerned about it,” Denham said. “I've got a job to do here, and that's to represent the people of my district.”