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Government Shutdown Fueled by Texas Voters

Government Shutdown Fueled by Texas Votersi
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October 10, 2013 1:14 AM
The current shutdown of the U.S. government has widespread support among conservatives in Texas, who vehemently oppose President Obama's health care reform law, known as "Obamacare." But, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, there are also many Texans frustrated by the shutdown and its effects on programs they say are needed.
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Greg Flakus
— The current shutdown of the U.S. government has widespread support among conservatives in Texas, who vehemently oppose President Obama's health care reform law, known as "Obamacare."  But, there are also many Texans frustrated by the shutdown and its effects on programs they say are needed.

This U.S. Army Reserve Armory in Houston was supposed to be full of Texas National Guard soldiers engaged in training this weekend, but the shutdown shut all that down as well, says Major Brian Hildebrand.

“Because we have postponed it, they are not getting that training that we need to get done," he said.

Houston is also home to the Johnson Space Center, where a small staff maintains essential operations for the International Space Station.  All but around 100 of the more than 3,000 employees are furloughed.

But overall, the government shutdown has had little impact on the average person and many people pay it little attention.

The people here with the most interest in what is going on in Washington are conservatives who are members of the so-called Tea Party.

Like many others who regularly attend Tea Party events, retired engineer Dennis Altom wants Republican senators and representatives to hold firm.

"I am hoping that our conservatives hold out and actually hold the Democrats' feet to the fire," said Altom.

Altom agrees with the effort to stop Obamacare, which he says would bankrupt the nation.  And he dismisses dire warnings about the consequences of failing to raise the debt limit.

"I don't want them to raise the debt ceiling any further.  We have put this country in way too much debt as it is," he said.

Julie Turner, president of the Texas Patriots PAC, or political action committee, believes standing firm will strengthen the movement.

"If we, the people, advocate for our principles, we will soon see candidates from all political parties embracing our principles to get elected," said Turner.

Such grassroots activism in Texas has helped Republicans gain all major state offices and dominate the state legislature.

But there are still millions of voters here, like Merry Foxworth, who are outraged by the conservative agenda and the tactics that led to the federal shutdown.

"I think it is just absolutely unconscionable what they are doing.  It is immoral, it is unethical," said Foxworth.

As a longtime advocate of a single-payer health care system, Foxworth has her own criticisms of Obamacare, but she is not ready to abandon it.

"I don't think we should repeal Obamacare because you can't go and take away those few good things it does for the people it would help," she said.

Foxworth says the mostly white, middle-class Tea Party conservatives don't care about the millions of Texans who rely on federal government-supported programs for the poor, disabled and elderly.

But the conservative Texans say they are gaining widespread support and they have shown a readiness to punish lawmakers who stray from their agenda.

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