Add Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen to the ranks of GOP House members ready to cut a deal with Democrats, and possibly water down or drop their demand to block Obamacare as a condition of keeping the government open. The following is a lightly-edited transcript of an interview on Tuesday.
Q - Who is going to shoulder the blame for this shutdown?
A - We’re all going to shoulder some of the blame. I took some calls myself in the office. We had about 100 calls in D.C. about 60 in Minnesota. People obviously, are saying ‘Hey, the government doesn’t need to be shut down.’ ‘Why is this happening?’ A handful say, ‘stay strong.’ It’s a little bit of a mix… The bottom line is it’s not good to have a government shutdown, folks expect government to work…
Q - What’s the exit strategy?
A - Now we’re relegated to seeing what we can do behind the scenes, because the leaders aren’t talking like they should. That’s what I’m doing… (cites discussions with Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind).
Q - Is there a way out besides putting off Obamacare?
A - There is an opportunity where there are Democrats that have indicated that they might support some delays of some components of the health care law, particularly around the individual mandate. However, the one vote that has garnered the most bipartisan support was repeal of the medical device tax… If we can look at some ideas there, maybe that will break up the logjam.
Q - Can you see yourself voting for a ‘clean’ funding resolution to get the government running again?
A - I will look at anything that comes in front of me to end the impasse, because we do need to put an end to it.
Q - Including a ‘no-conditions’ measure, just simply keep the government open?
A - Yup, I will look at anything that comes in front of me to end the impasse.
Q - Let me ask you the kind of question you’d get in a Town Hall: ‘You Republicans are all in the throes of the Tea Party extremists, why don’t you jettison them and do a deal with the Democrats?’
A - That’s been part of my conversation with Ron Kind as we look to break the impasse on the device tax. … An all or nothing approach is not a solution to the impasse that we’re at. The reality is that when this ends, and it will end, it will be bipartisan in conclusion. It has to be. One side is not going to get everything they want.
Q - Isn’t there a precedent that’s being set here? If you can introduce something like Obamacare, that’s been settled law for a few years, and put that into a budget discussion, what keeps anybody from bringing up any issue in any year’s budget resolution? Where does this end?
A - Any law can be changed, obviously, at any time. Even knowing the president has changed or delayed parts of the law on his own …. And there continue to be a lot of questions about employment with the law, and now health insurance premiums as the rollout takes place, it’s only natural there’s going to be heightened awareness of the Obamacare, and that’s why it’s generating more excitement among Republicans right now.