Rep. Tom Cole said Thursday Republicans could risk losing control of the House in next year's elections if they move to shut down the government or default on the debt during budget negotiations with President Barack Obama.
"The only way Republicans will lose the House is to shut down the government or default on the debt," the Oklahoma Republican told Politico
. "Shutting down the government is not in the best interests of the American people and it makes you look politically irresponsible."
"I'm not inclined to jeopardize the crown jewel, and the House of Representatives is the crown jewel in this election cycle," added Cole, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
In October, the House will likely vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating as Congress wrestles with a decision about whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling again to allow for continued borrowing.
Many in the GOP have called for using the debt limit as leverage to get Obama to agree to deeper spending cuts. They also want the defunding of Obamacare tied to the budget and debt talks, as well.
According to many political observers and strategists, the Republican Party can still expect to gain seats in the House and the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections. But those same strategists say that a government shutdown could end up tipping the election strongly in favor of the Democrats.
"If you ask me what is the one thing that could reshuffle the deck on an otherwise stable mid-term environment in 2014, the answer is a government shutdown," Brook McCleary, a Republican pollster and former deputy executive director of the Republican Congressional Committee, told Politico. "Convincing voters that the other side is to blame would become a game of high-stakes politics."
"A government shutdown could change the current 2014 dynamic and put a number of seats in play that aren't in play today," added another GOP strategist.
Democratic strategists, meanwhile, say that a government shutdown would just make their argument against House Republicans that much easier, especially if they also fail to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
"Every big issue that comes up, the chaos and dysfunction of this caucus really drives the agenda and the way they cater to the extreme tea-party base within their caucus really drives their output on legislation, and it's a real problem for the American public," Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Politico.
But some conservative groups argue that Republican lawmakers stand to lose anyway by drawing tea party or other GOP challengers in their re-election primaries if they failed to hold the line on spending and also defund Obamacare, as they promised their constituents they would do.
"The greatest risk for Republicans is for them to continue to disappoint their supporters," said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth. "I don't think they've inspired them or given them a reason to support them in quite a while."
"At some point, they have to communicate to people there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats," he added.
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