Marlin Stutzman's focus shifted from shutdown to lockdown and back again in less than an hour Thursday afternoon, and although it's uncertain whether there was a connection, he admits the country is as upset by what's happening in Washington as he is.
“The public is very frustrated with Washington and the way it operates, with all the finger-pointing,” said Stutzman, R-3rd, who received national attention after telling a reporter Wednesday that Republicans were “not going to be disrespected (in the stalemate over the budget and Obamacare that has resulted in a partial shutdown of the federal government). We have to get something out of this. And I don't even know what that means.”
The resulting firestorm caused Stutzman to issue a statement Thursday acknowledging that he had “carelessly misrepresented the ongoing budget debate . . . Despite my remarks it's clear the American people want both parties to come to the table to reopen government, tackle the debt crisis and stop Obamacare's pain.”
But the partisan wrangling stopped for about 45 minutes Thursday when a woman with a young child in the car – for reasons still unknown – attempted to drive through a White House gate then led security agents on a chase to the Capitol, where she was shot and killed by police.
“I was in my office and heard shots, very rapid, like firecrackers, and I knew something was wrong,” said Stutzman, who went onto the balcony near his office and saw helicopters overhead during the incident. “Then they sounded the alarm for the lockdown.”
“I was scared at first. Nobody knew whether others might be involved or whether it was an isolated incident,” Stutzman said. “(The woman) was disturbed about something.”
Stutzman, meanwhile, is perturbed over what he sees as an unreasonable refusal to compromise among congressional Democrats. The GOP-led House of Representatives has passed several bills that would fund government at current levels, but President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate have refused even to negotiate, he said.
The Republicans bills at first sought to defund the “Affordable Care Act” and later tried to delay all or part of it, but Stutzman said GOP-sought delays are simply consistent with the delays already granted by administration concerning certain aspects of the legislation.
Thursday, the House passed a bill supported by Stutzman that would provide continued funding for the National Guard, including the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, some members of which have been furloughed because of the shutdown. The bills still requires approval by the Senate and president.
Although some analysts say Republicans might have been political wiser simply to let Obamacare take effect, thereby avoiding any blame for a shutdown, Stutzman said the bill's potential harm is simply too great to accept.
“It's producing a part-time economy, and premiums are going up. If (Republicans) work for the right policy, it will be the right politics,” he said.
Stutzman said his controversial statement wasn't about the search for political gain but about the need for both parties to sit down, talk and to “make it a win for both sides. We have to get spending under control, but Obamacare will increase spending dramatically.”
And although Stutzman sees little evidence of compromise right now, he said events may force it.
“Around Oct. 17, we'll hit the debt ceiling. That will force a solution,” he said.