Latta supporters back vote against compromise

U.S Rep. Bob Latta
U.S Rep. Bob Latta

lmost exactly one year ago, U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) snagged the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement for re-election to Congress.

But his vote Wednesday night against ending a partial government shutdown and extending the nation’s debt limit went contrary to that influential national business organization’s stand on the bill.

The Chamber was one of several voices from corporate America that found themselves unexpectedly on the side of trying to rein in the Republican Party from leading the United States into a credit default.

Mr. Latta was one of 144 Republicans who cast “no” votes hoping to defeat a compromise resolution from the Democratic-controlled Senate to end a disruptive partial government shutdown and raise the country’s debt ceiling. The bill passed the GOP-controlled House 285-144, with 87 Republicans joining Democrats to push it through.

All four Democratic members of Ohio’s House delegation voted yes, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). Ohio Republicans split, with four voting yes, including House Speaker John Boehner (R., West Chester), and eight voting no.

Miss Kaptur issued a statement saying, “a working, bipartisan majority in the House now holds the power to govern this nation.”

“Our citizenry expects a nation that is confident and certain, not unsteady and uncertain. America wants a growing economy, job creation here at home, and a government that runs efficiently as part of a larger whole in which we all have a stake,” she said. "After 42 consecutive months of job creation, we have stumbled with this unnecessary, manufactured crisis.”

Mr. Latta said he stays in close contact with constituents in his sprawling 5th District and has made more than 400 visits to companies, factories, schools, and farms during the last 13 months. He said he heard no voices of opposition from people or groups who normally support him.

“I have not had any calls at my office. They know how to get hold of me. Nobody’s shy out there talking to me,” Mr. Latta said.

He defended the GOP stance, which has been widely panned as harmful to the economy and U.S. credit, as a tactic to force President Obama and the Senate to engage in budget negotiation, but they refused.

He disagreed the Republican brand has been damaged or Mr. Boehner emerged weakened politically.

“I don’t think Boehner’s in trouble at all. He’s stronger today than two months ago,” Mr. Latta said.

Mr. Latta continued to express outrage at the Democratic position on the shutdown and the Affordable Care Act, which he said exempts the President and his staff and which he contends is sending tremors of fear through the economy. And he said the President repeatedly demanded a “clean continuing resolution” — without Republican amendments to defund the health-care law. But he said the compromise bill contained 41 unrelated amendments.

“What they’re saying is, ‘It’s our way or the highway,’ ” Mr. Latta said.

GOP opposition to raising the debt limit succeeded, he said, in forcing the Democrats to accept a continuing resolution for $986.3 billion, rather than the $1.43 trillion the President had wanted.

Local business leader Jeannie Hylant, whose family has contributed frequently to Mr. Latta’s campaign committee, said “the whole thing was a joke on both sides of the fence,” but she pointed most of the blame at the White House.

“If we [in business] spent the time they did fighting with each other, we’d all be bankrupt. There had to be a better way to solve the problem,” said Ms. Hylant, who is executive vice president of the Toledo-based Hylant Group.

Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook said congressmen who fought to stall or kill the health-care act, often called Obamacare, were just doing what the majority of Ohioans wanted. He referred to the state’s 65-percent vote in 2011 in favor of the Healthcare Freedom Amendment, which intended to block imposition of a health insurance mandate.

“They try to negotiate the deal. The plan was to come to the table to hammer out some kind of agreement. The President did not allow that to happen,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

He insisted neither Mr. Latta or U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) wanted a shutdown or default. “The phone calls I’m receiving at the party are all from voters that are saying, ‘This is what we want, you better make sure they hold the line and we are not going to buckle on this,’ ” Mr. Stainbrook said. “It’s all positive reinforcement. But I do know the voters want to make sure they can conduct business so capitalism can thrive.”

Matt Reger, chairman of the Wood County GOP, said both parties are at fault for taking the government into a shutdown and threatening a default on America’s debt, but he declined to criticize Mr. Latta.

“I don’t think one vote is going to affect Bob Latta’s position with business leaders in the community. There are two parties in Congress. Both parties have a role in this. I think [Republicans] have some legitimate reasons for what they wanted to do. They needed a platform to argue their points and that’s what they chose to do,” Mr. Reger said.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.