Trey Gowdy (Getty Images)
By Mary Orndorff Troyan, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON- Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy said his party's plan to threaten a government shutdown over the 2010 health care law was doomed from the beginning, and he wishes he'd done more to keep his colleagues from pursuing it.
"It ended with capitulation," Gowdy said in an interview Wednesday night, minutes before voting against the bipartisan deal to reopen the government. "What did Republicans get for 16 days of a government shutdown with people being hurt? We have absolutely nothing to show for it, other than a damaged brand."
The Spartanburg Republican said the GOP lost more than it gained. Instead of defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act, the showdown resulted in no major changes to the law and no significant spending cuts.
"We had a government shutdown, we were at the precipice of hitting the debt ceiling and our strategy - or the strategy of some - has resulted arguably in (more of) a worst-case scenario than where we were on Oct. 1," Gowdy said.
Despite his disagreement with the strategy, Gowdy voted consistently for GOP proposals to defund or delay parts of the health care law as a condition for keeping the government open past Sept. 30. Democrats rejected them all, the stalemate worsened, and polls showed Republicans were shouldering most of the blame.
"I'm not one to cast stones," Gowdy said. "I need to go home and work on being more persuasive myself, and hopefully my colleagues will have a period of self-reflection and evaluate why they're in public service as well."
Gowdy, a conservative in his second term, was equally critical of President Barack Obama and Democrats for refusing to negotiate with Republicans on proposals to change the Affordable Care Act. That hard line taken by Democrats, he said, will endanger Obama's next big issue: immigration reform.
Obama said Thursday that Congress should complete action on immigration reform by the end of the year. The Senate passed an immigration bill in June.
"Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let's hear them," Obama said. "Let's start the negotiations. But let's not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years."
The Senate bill, passed with support from Democrats and Republicans, includes a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants already in the country, but the GOP majority in the House has rejected it.
Gowdy chairs a House immigration subcommittee and has worked all year on alternatives that conservatives could back, such as stronger enforcement of immigration laws and fewer paths to citizenship.
After the government shutdown debacle, he said he's less optimistic about a deal because Congress will be consumed with the next two looming deadlines - on government funding in January and the debt limit in February.
But he also doesn't think Obama will compromise.
"I think there is less trust now than in the three years I've been here," Gowdy said. "So when I hear the president say immigration reform is coming next? No, it's not."