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Republicans feeling shutdown fallout

The 16-day federal government shutdown that ended last week cost the American economy $24 billion, with political fallout that could prove disastrous for the Republicans in 2014.

The primary goal of this idiocy, which also threatened to put the government into default on its debts, was to force President Barack Obama to defund or delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But Obama and his fellow Democrats stood firm against this reprehensible attempt at hostage taking, ensuring that health care reform is a done deal.

Last week’s bipartisan compromise funds the government until Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. Budget negotiations will now follow, with a Dec. 13 deadline for recommendations on longer term budget levels and deficit reduction. The can has once again been kicked down the road.

The bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling passed the Senate by an 81-18 vote, with all 54 Democrats, including Michigan Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow in favor, while Republicans voted for it by 27-18.

This bill passed the House by a 285-144 vote. All 198 Democrats, including the five from Michigan, voted for it. But the majority of House Republicans refused to act like adults, voting 144-87 against the bill. Republicans in the Michigan House delegation split 5-4 against it. Voting in favor were Reps. Dan Benishek, Dave Camp, Mike Rogers and Fred Upton. Opposed to the bitter end, even if it meant default, were Reps. Justin Amash, Kerry Bentivolio, Bill Huizenga, Candice Miller and Tim Walberg.

Polls find that most Americans blame the Republicans for the shutdown, with 30 or more Republican-held House seats in jeopardy, more than enough to flip control. There are several Michigan House Republicans who are already in trouble, with votes both for and against this bill being held against them.

Bentivolio, a Tea Party extremist and accidental congressman who won in 2012 after former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter was kicked off the Republican primary ballot due to fraudulent nominating petition signatures, has been challenged in the 2014 Republican primary by foreclosure lawyer David Trott, who has the backing of the Oakland County Republican establishment. Trott has already raised $648,519, compared to about $150,000 for Bentivolio. The Democrats, whose 2012 candidate Syed Taj lost by seven percent, may run the more high-profile Jocelyn Benson, Wayne State University Law School dean and 2010 Michigan secretary of state candidate, for the seat.

Walberg, who has a history of close races, already has a strong Democratic challenger in former state Rep. Pam Byrnes, who has been leading in some polls.

Benishek, who narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Gary McDowell in 2012 with Tea Party support, has now come under attack by the Tea Party for voting for the bill and may face a Republican primary challenger as well as a strong Democratic opponent.

Giving the polling results, the best hope for Republicans in 2014 is that voters have short attention spans. But with more votes coming up on the budget and debt ceiling, the Tea Party wackos in their caucus could dig them deeper into the hole.