DENVER — Rep. Mike Coffman, one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Washington, has more to lose in the ongoing budget battle than many of his House Republican colleagues who represent safe GOP districts.
If Republicans are blamed for a shutdown, Coffman and a handful of the other House Republicans who actually represent competitive districts could be collateral damage from a prolonged stalemate their more ideologically-driven colleagues insist on waging.
But Coffman, who’s never lost a major election, isn’t trying not to allow his caucus to wholly determine his fate.
Coffman, an Iraq and Afghanistan war vet, sponsored the one piece of legislation that both the House and Senate have agreed to this week: the “Pay Our Military Act”, which will ensure that members of the military won’t see their paychecks delayed even if there is a shutdown.
President Barack Obama signed the bill into law late Monday night, just before the government shutdown happened.
“The last thing a soldier, Marine, airman, or sailor deployed overseas needs to worry about is whether or not they will get paid so their families can be taken care of,” Coffman said in a press release from his office Monday afternoon.
But Democrats are watching Coffman closely — and they’re not highlighting his bill to help military members amidst a shutdown, but his membership within a House GOP caucus that, in the view of Democrats and a majority of Americans, is causing that shutdown.
Andrew Romanoff, the Democrat challenging Coffman, criticized the incumbent for voting with his GOP colleagues three times now on bills tying government funding to an Obamacare repeal.
“This is a disaster, and it’s a self-inflicted problem,” Romanoff said in an interview with FOX31 Denver Monday night. “The Tea Party wing of the House Republicans have run roughshod over that whole building.
“Speaker Boehner has said his job is to do whatever his caucus wants; there’s just an absence of leadership in that chamber and it’s time we start replacing them with new management.”
Coffman, speaking Monday night with FOX31 Denver, blamed Senate Democrats for “not showing up” on Sunday and for refusing to negotiate.
“This is a debate we need to have,” Coffman said, acknowledging it could cost him his seat.
“I’m a Marine Corps combat veteran and my job is to lead and to do what’s right, no matter the consequences. And so whatever the consequences of doing what’s right in leadership are, I’m willing to take those consequences.”
Democrats in Washington are already working hard to see that Coffman is tied to the House GOP majority.
“As a member of the Tea Party House Republican ‘suicide squad,’ Mike Coffman’s bluster, brinkmanship, and economic hostage-taking will mean a government shutdown that will hurt the people of Colorado,” said Andy Stone, with the House Majority PAC, in a press release Monday morning.
“A government shutdown is needless, foolish, and economically reckless but that hasn’t stopped Congressman Coffman from joining with Tea Party to charge ahead and push our nation to the brink.”
On the flip side, Republicans are spinning it the other way, issuing a statement blaming Democrats for refusing to negotiate.
“The only people in Washington that voted to shut down the government are congressional Democrats, who are so committed to Obama’s failed health care law that they are willing to cut vital government services in order to protect it,” NRCC Spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton told FOX31 Denver Monday night.
“There is no question Andrew Romanoff would vote with Nancy Pelosi to shut down the government to protect ObamaCare and their reckless addiction to government spending if given the chance.”