Ind. Republicans back down from shutdown comments

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Prominent Indiana Republicans had trouble this week deciding whether the federal government shutdown was necessary and what they wanted out of it, backing down from statements about Washington, including one that sparked ridicule from President Barack Obama.

Gov. Mike Pence was the latest Republican to tamp down his comments Friday. He told South Bend media Tuesday that “efforts to delay the implementation of Obamacare and also efforts to reduce the negative impact of Obamacare on our economy are worthwhile.” But he said Friday, shortly before leaving the Statehouse on the annual governor’s motorcycle ride, that he “probably could have been more clear.”

“I never said the government shutdown was worthwhile. And, like every Hoosier, I’m frustrated,” he said.

Pence’s backpedalling came as U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman apologized for a clumsy statement that earlier in the week put Republicans on the defensive in the ongoing shutdown fight and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita was forced to explain an off-color comment he made to a CNN anchor.

The gaffes, stark words and artless prose were enough to give national Democrats and Comedy Central news satirists days’ worth of material in a news cycle that turns over by the hour, if not the minute. But the tempering of language is a new tack for Pence, who occasionally led tea party rallies during his 12 years in the U.S. House and supported a federal shutdown in 2011 unless the federal government stopped funding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Pence has never been as fiery in his delivery as other staunch conservatives such as U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., or U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, but his policies and stances have largely lined up with the party’s conservative wing. Since becoming governor, however, Pence has stayed away from hot-button social issues and avoided most blatantly partisan battles in the Statehouse.

Pence’s comments, however, were overshadowed by Stutzman, a former Congressional colleague, who insisted that House Republicans wanted something from Democrats in the continuing standoff, but weren’t sure exactly what.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Stutzman told a Washington Examiner reporter Wednesday. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

By Thursday Stutzman’s quote had become the gaffe of choice for national Democrats looking to paint Republicans as obstructionists and was mocked pointedly by Obama during a speech in Maryland. Stutzman quickly issued a statement saying that his comments did not reflect the stance of House Republicans.

The unlikely victor following Stutzman’s remarks may have been Rokita, who had taken heat for calling the federal health care law “insidious” but compounded his troubles in a follow-up interview on CNN Wednesday.

Rokita told CNN anchor Carol Costello “You’re beautiful, but you have to be honest as well.” She ended the on-air interview at that comment. Rokita, a sophomore Republican, later said he meant no offense to Costello.

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