How Gerrymandering Makes A Speedy Shutdown End Unlikely

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CREDIT: AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin, left, holds a copy of the latest congressional redistricting map while speaking during a news conference on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2003, in Austin, Texas.  On the right is Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin. House Democrats blasted the proposed conference committee map, calling it a blatant partisan gerrymander.(AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

CREDIT: AP Photo/Harry Cabluck

With polls and many conservative stalwarts agreeing that Congressional Republicans are to blame for the federal government shutdown, at least 14 members of the House majority have said they would now be open to backing a “clean” continuing resolution. But a ThinkProgress analysis of those members find that they almost all represent the small number of Congressional districts held by Republicans but won or nearly-won by President Obama in 2012.

Democrats currently hold 200 seats in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives (and Democrats are heavily favored to hold the open seat of now-Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) in a December special election). According to a spreadsheet of 2012 election results posted by David Nir of DailyKos Elections, those 201 districts, on average, voted for Obama in 2012 by almost two-to-one majority. The Republican majority (232 members, plus two vacancies in heavily-Republican districts) is made up of 234 districts in which Obama, on average, received under 40 percent of the vote. While Obama won 51.1 percent of the national popular vote and almost 1.4 million more Americans voted for a Democratic House member than a Republican, Republicans control more than 53 percent of the House.

According to the Huffington Post, 14 Republicans have expressed a willingness to do what the Democratic Senate did last week on a party-line vote: back a continuing resolution that does not contain poison-pill amendments like the ones in the House versions backed (in one form or other) by every House Republican. They represent districts in which Obama received an average of 48.8 percent of the vote:

Gerrymandering Speedy Shutdown 3

Even if every one of these Republicans joined every single House Democrat to sign a discharge petition and force a vote on the House floor, they would still be three short of the necessary 217 signatures (majority of the current 433 members).

Obama garnered 48.8 percent of the vote or more in just 13 of the 218 other Congressional Districts currently represented by a Republican — and even if the general public wants the government reopened, there is little political pressure in heavily GOP districts for Republican members to side with President Obama and the Democrats.

Given that members of the majority party almost never sign discharge petitions to force votes on bills against the wishes of the Speaker of the House (three Democratic discharge petitions filed so far in this Congress attracted almost zero Republican support), such a petition seems unlikely at best.

Worse, when asked whether he would allow members to vote on a continuing resolution like the one passed by the U.S. Senate — but without riders to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act — Boehner told reporters Monday, “That’s not going to happen.” With a gerrymandered majority consisting of districts that do not represent the majority of Americans’ viewpoints, House Republicans can keep the government in a shutdown highly insulated from the anger and blame they are receiving.


Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA), whose district gave 48.1 percent of its vote to President Obama in 2012, also endorsed a clean continuing resolution on Wednesday.

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Reps. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who district gave Obama just 33.1 percent of its vote in 2012, and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), who represents a district that gave 46.3 percent support to the president, also indicated Wednesday that they support a clean continuing resolution. This means that if the House were permitted to vote on such a measure, the 17 Republicans could form a majority with only the 200 House Democrats and no additional GOP colleagues.

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