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Daniel Tilson: Holding Florida congressional shutdown supporters accountable

Although Florida’s Republican U.S. House contingent voted 10-6 against ending the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, a cooler overall collection of bipartisan heads prevailed last week in averting national default and reopening the American government.

The full House vote was 285 in favor of raising the debt ceiling and ending the shutdown, and 144 against. The national GOP breakdown pretty much mirrored the Florida split with 144 of 231 Republicans voting “no”, demonstrating an unprecedented willingness to risk financial crisis and keep the shutdown going until extracting a face-saving pound of flesh from President Obama.

On the other hand, all 198 House Democrats including 10 from Florida voted to restore order to budgetary, political and governmental processes gone wild in recent weeks.

That is, if you can call “order” the temporary extension of the debt ceiling to Jan. 15 and delay of debt default until Feb. 7. Disappointingly, that’s the best today’s version of the GOP could do.

You have to hand it to the Tea Party wing that controls the Republican Party. They’re perfectly willing to jab away and keep the country wobbling on the ropes. But hey, they won’t consider throwing another knockdown punch until after the holidays.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year; then put up your dukes, or duck. How…special.

The Tea Party wing engaged in a well-documented shutdown-planning process that led to 16 days of pain, suffering and grief for countless Americans. Our national economy took a $24-billion hit in the process, millions right here in Florida.

The original “goal” supposedly was to get rid of “Obamacare” by eliminating its funding. But plenty of Florida Republicans and even Tea Party types who were sold that story for months know by now it was a smokescreen.

The goal was and remains to embarrass the president and blackmail congressional Democrats into selling out the middle class by cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare, for starters.

That’s the plan the GOP now takes into a 28-member bipartisan congressional conference group charged with reaching some sort of long-term agreement on the budget by Dec. 13.

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Notably, the only Florida member of the group is Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Given the price Republican extremists made our state and nation pay for the shutdown, the question is: What price will Florida voters make Tea Party affiliated congressmen such as Steve Southerland, Ted Yoho and Trey Radel pay for first causing the shutdown and then voting to keep it going and for defaulting on our national debt?

While most pundits kept repeating after Wednesday night’s shutdown-ending vote that House Republicans had “lost” their fight without getting much in return, the reality seems quite different.

Because from all appearances, ambition-over-service politicians like Southerland, Yoho and Radel never wanted much more out of this mess than to shore up their anti-Obama, anti-government credentials with the voters they’ll need to win re-election in 2014.

Anecdotal evidence indicates they’ve achieved that goal.

Any concessions won in congressional budget negotiations will be gravy for this group of me-first power-seekers.

What remains to be seen is whether the national and Florida Democratic Party will wield the combination of money, messaging and grassroots manpower needed in 2014 to chase at least a few of these Tea Party incumbents out of office before they can do any more damage.

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