Lamborn draws early campaign fire for ‘suicide caucus’ votes

Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn was one of the House Republicans who spearheaded the move to threaten a government shutdown unless the Senate and President Obama agreed to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The plan didn’t work.

The government closed for two and a half weeks and the nation very narrowly escaped defaulting on its debt. The threat was a strategic blunder and a deeply unpopular move with the American public.

But Lamborn stuck to it: He was one of the 144 House Republicans who voted against the legislative deal struck Thursday that ended the crisis.

“The other Colorado Republicans… they said ‘Ok, no more. Let’s not do this.’ But Lamborn? I don’t think he understands how it works,” said Irv Halter, the retired Air Force general who is running to take Lamborn’s seat next year.

“The government is a huge web of interlocking pieces. Somehow, he seems surprised by this. I mean, you can furlough government workers. But private-sector contractors work with those furloughed workers. The contractors have teams working on projects. They are not getting paid. The people running those companies can’t furlough their people and give them back pay. It’s a mess.”

Over the last four decades, Halter has been a combat pilot, a vice director for the Joint Chiefs, a superintendent at the Air Force Academy and vice president at the enormous Computer Sciences Corporation.

“Look at this District,” Halter says. The Fifth District, based around Colorado Springs, is home to military bases, training facilities and all variety of government contract businesses. “Forty percent of the economy here is tied directly or indirectly to the government. How could you fail to protect the mother’s milk here for your constituents? These votes he took weren’t courageous. Talk to people. The business community here is appalled.”

“The first thing I would do [if I were elected] is pledge not to use a government shutdown as a tool or tactic to force a concession from an administration or anyone else,” he said. “I would love for Lamborn to make the same promise now.”

Lamborn doesn’t seem likely to take up the proposal. His office declined to comment specifically in response to Halter’s statements but referred instead to a post-shutdown release:

“I don’t believe our efforts here have been in vain,” Lamborn is quoted to say. “We have called attention to the need to reform federal spending and to bring more fairness to Obamacare. I remain hopeful that the fight will continue and will gain strength from the American people in the coming months and years.”

Capitol Hill is already bracing for another budget showdown when the current deal expires in January.

Lamborn was one of the 80 House members to sign the August 21 letter to Speaker John Boehner proposing the doomed shutdown threat and penned by North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, a former restaurant owner and Sunday-school Bible teacher. Conservative national pundit Charles Krauthammer dubbed the group the “suicide caucus.” They all represent conservative districts where voter demographics skew considerably older and whiter than the rest of the country.

Colorado’s Fifth District was rated R+15 on the 2012 Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, the 52nd most-conservative district in the nation.

Democrat Halter told the Colorado Independent he sees a shift coming, where greater percentages of the voting population are ready to place less emphasis on party affiliation than they do on competence.

“People are disgusted. They see a competence deficit.”

Halter reported $120,000 in campaign donations in the quarter that just ended, double what Lamborn raised.