While many see nothing but darkness at the end of the tunnel where the runaway government shutdown locomotive is bound, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden believes there is a light ahead.
Tiny, but one that eventually will show the way through the political logjam, predicted Walden, a Republican from Hood River.
"We're at a really important place now," Walden said Friday evening during a brief break in GOP leadership meetings in Washington, D.C.
"There has to be a lot of pressure building up before the parties go to the table to negotiate," he added. "That has to occur in major negotiations."
While he expressed confidence that point is near, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who frequently bends the ear of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Indiana, did not spell out specifics of how the stalemate will end.
"It will get resolved," said the congressman, his voice sounding tired on the phone. "It will. We will get through it. The world will get back together. The sun will rise."
Walden, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Jackson County, said no one in the GOP leadership wants the shutdown to continue.
"Our goal is certainly not to have a government shutdown," he said. "But it doesn't mean the process will always go smoothly."
Indeed, the debate was derailed before the train left the station.
President Obama and Democrats in Congress say they will talk about changes to the health care law demanded by the GOP-led House only after that chamber votes on a bill to fund the government. In the Senate, where the Democrats hold sway, leaders also say they won't negotiate health care specifics until the budget issue is settled.
Economists say the shutdown will endanger the nation's still fragile economic recovery if it leads to a default by mid-October.
Before the shutdown began Tuesday, input into his office was split over whether stopping the health care program was worth a government shutdown, Walden said.
"Once there was a shutdown, the calls shifted against that," he said.
While the NRCC chairman was defending his party's position, his counterparts in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were having nothing of it. The committee blasted him for voting against allowing a "clean" budget bill, one without an attached rider hamstringing the health care law.
"While a few of Congressman Walden's colleagues are calling for an end to the shutdown, Congressman Walden continued today to blindly vote with Speaker Boehner and his Republican leadership in their irresponsible quest to put more money in insurance companies' pockets at the expense of middle class families," DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a prepared statement. The shutdown is costing taxpayers more than $300 million a day, she said.
Walden believes it is Obama and Democrats in the Senate who caused the shutdown, claiming they have refused to budge.
"We need the president to be more flexible," he said. "That attitude doesn't work in a marriage or in Congress. To just to dig in and say we're not going to negotiate is not the way to do anything."
Walden, who has been a member of Congress for 14 years, also took issue with an article Thursday in The Daily Beast, an online news magazine.
During a meeting with some top GOP donors at the Le Cirque restaurant in Manhattan last month, Walden had commented about the pressure the Tea Party was putting on the GOP to shut the government down, according to the article.
The comments came after the GOP donors questioned Walden about the Republican Party's seeming to embrace the stances taken by its most extreme elements, it noted.
"Listen," the magazine quoted Walden as saying. "We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don't, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary."
When Walden later asked for a show of hands at the table to see how many precinct captains were present, none were raised, the article added.
"I hear this complaint all the time," Walden reportedly said. "But no one gets involved at the local level. The Tea Party gets involved at the local level."
The first quotation was wrong but the second one was correct, Walden said Friday.
"I'm a precinct person; so is my wife," he said, noting the grassroots level is how political change comes about.
Meanwhile, Dennis Linthicum, chairman of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners, announced late last month that he is mulling over running against Walden in the 2014 primary. Linthicum is known as a very conservative Republican.
Walden shrugged it off.
"It's clear I've got a conservative voting record," he said before returning to the GOP leadership meeting. "It proves I'm trying to change things and get things under control. I will continue doing the work I'm doing."
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.