A majority of Americans are blaming House Republicans for the partial government shutdown, but in some pockets of Ohio, the message to GOP lawmakers is clear: Don't give in.
Tea party and conservative groups say the government shutdown has mobilized them as never before, and they say the fact that the government is at war over spending and President Barack Obama's health-care law -- two issues they say are closely related -- means that their message is being heard.
"They're not setting the agenda, we are," said Tom Zawistowski of the Portage County Tea Party. "The Republicans aren't setting the agenda, the Democrats aren't setting the agenda, President Obama isn't setting this agenda. This agenda is being set by the American people through the tea party movement. Everything that is going on is being driven by us."
Saying he does not want Congress to agree to a short-term debt-ceiling increase, Zawistowski contended it's time for the country to address its fiscal problems.
He considers the president's health-care law -- "Obamacare" -- part of the problem. Why add an entitlement, he said, when the country can't deal with the cost of its current entitlements?
"We're saying man up," he said. "Grow up. Put on your big boy pants. Your job is to take care of our country."
Some 85 Ohio tea party leaders sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on Oct. 2 urging conservatives to defund the health-care law. Since then, they've gathered 598 signatures on an online petition calling for the same thing.
Whether the public agrees is another matter. An Associated Press-GfK poll released this week found that 63 percent of those surveyed mainly blame Republicans for the shutdown. Fifty-two percent, meanwhile, said Obama is not doing enough to cooperate with Republicans to end the shutdown.
And a Washington Post-ABC poll finds 70 percent of those surveyed disapprove of how House Republicans are handling negotiations over the federal budget, while 51 percent disapprove of how Obama has handled the negotiations.
Some Ohioans are cheering the shutdown.
"I am ecstatic about the federal government shutdown," said Barbara Burkard of Miami Valley Citizens Informed, which she describes as an independent organization focused on constitutional and Judeo-Christian issues. "The fact that the EPA is shut down couldn't be better news. ... The government is best when it's not working."
The Warren County resident said she feels that Congress is finally responding to the 66 percent of Ohioans, for example, who voted to reject the health-care law in 2011.
Tim Savaglio of the Liberty Township Tea Party said the impact of the shutdown hasn't been as stark as predicted.
"One thing the shutdown is showing is that the government still runs," he said. "It's showing us how much of it can be privatized."
He said he is skeptical of a default, saying the federal government has enough to pay interest on its debt. "Clearly there will be some pain in other programs," Savaglio said, but contended that it's Obama's job to determine how to pay the other bills without going further into debt.
"There is danger, there's no question about that, but the danger is clearly overstated," he said.
By Jessica Wehrman - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
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