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GOP Governors Chart Different Paths On Shutdown

Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announces her candidacy for a second term in August, with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (from left), Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Richard Shiro
Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announces her candidacy for a second term in August, with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (from left), Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

The federal government shutdown has given governors across the country an opportunity to take part in one of their favorite pastimes: scolding Washington.

Among Republicans, though, there appears to be some disagreement over exactly who's to blame for the latest budget impasse.

One camp of GOP governors — often those in blue states or with national ambitions (if not both) — has largely chastised all parties involved. They're eager to distance themselves from Washington and portray themselves as results-oriented "outsiders."

A handful of others are largely in sync with their Capitol Hill colleagues, pointing to President Obama as almost solely responsible for the shutdown.

The Democrats are easier to categorize: Most Democratic governors seem to agree that the GOP — and, more specifically, the Tea Party — is fully to blame for the latest budget crisis.

Here's where some of the nation's most prominent Republican governors stand:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Scott, a swing-state incumbent facing the voters next year, blamed Obama's "failure of leadership" for the shutdown, saying the president "has shown no interest in negotiating or compromising."

"The buck ultimately stops with the President," Scott said in a statement. "The time for leadership is now."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

Pence, a former GOP congressman who was elected governor in 2012, faulted Obama for refusing to compromise with House Republicans, saying he should be willing to "accept some changes to Obamacare."

"The federal government shutdown is a failure of leadership, particularly by this administration that has been unwilling to move off of a singular position," Pence said. "I just urge the president to sit down with legislators and look for opportunities for genuine common ground."

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad

Branstad, who served four terms as governor in the 1980s and 1990s, held office the last time the federal government shut down in 1995-'96. Elected to a fifth term in 2010, he's up for re-election next year in a state that Obama carried by 6 percentage points. Last week, Branstad took Washington politicians to task for constantly fighting with each other rather than working together.

"We got a lot of things accomplished, even with a split legislature," Branstad said of the Iowa's last legislative session. "I think Washington could learn a lot by operating the way that we do in the state of Iowa."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Jindal, the head of the Republican Governors Association and a 2016 presidential prospect, faulted "leaders across the board" Thursday for allowing the government to shut down.

But that wide-reaching condemnation came days after Jindal placed the shutdown blame entirely at President Obama's feet in a column for the Daily Caller, writing, "Washington dysfunction is the failure of leadership in the Oval Office."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Snyder faces a tough 2014 re-election fight in a blue state. A few days before the shutdown, he said "it would be a disaster" if the government closed, and chastised D.C. culture.

"There's something wrong with the culture here," Snyder said. "This is not how we should operate. It shouldn't be about people fighting and yelling."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Christie has focused his blame on Washington as a whole, rather than singling out the rival party. Despite New Jersey's strong Democratic tilt, he appears headed for a comfortable re-election against Democrat Barbara Buono in November and is considered a top contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

"That's a failure of people in public life for everybody in this country that is depending on a government that will get its stuff together," Christie said of the shutdown last Tuesday. "I hope in Washington, what they figure out is what we pay them to do when we send them down there is to run the government — not shut it down."

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

Haley, who is up for re-election next year and a prospect for national office, wrote on her official Facebook page that "a complete lack of leadership," particularly from the White House, is to blame for the shutdown.

"No Governor of a state would let this happen," the South Carolina conservative went on to write. "It is inexcusable for the President to allow this to happen in our country.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Walker isn't a stranger to government standoffs: He led one against Democrats over collective bargaining rights in 2011 and faced a recall because of it. But Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who faces re-election next year in a battleground state, chided members of both parties for the shutdown last Wednesday.

"I think blame can go around for everybody," Walker said. "I think not just in Wisconsin but in states across the country there's a lot of governors and lawmakers in both parties who wish the folks in Washington in both parties would act more like the states and less like our nation's capital."

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Adam Wollner
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