Congressman Pat Meehan, R-Pa., has peered into the abyss. He doesn't like what he sees.

Too bad he didn't bother to look over the edge last week.

Monday, hours into the shutdown of the federal government forced by the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, Meehan joined with several moderate Republicans across the region in seeking a “do-over.”

The 7th District congressman from Drexel Hill, Pa., now is urging his GOP brethren to offer a new, “clean” spending proposal, one that would not insist on rolling back President Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately, the move comes a few days too late.

Meehan would have been better served making this stance late last week, when it became clear this train was heading off the tracks, with a cabal of conservative members of the House drawing a line in the sand over “Obamacare.” They made it clear their intention was to either strip funding for health care reform, or have the plan delayed a year, or they would simply dig in their heels and watch as the government imploded.

Meehan voted in favor of the moves that led to the shutdown. Now he's having second thoughts.

“I came to Washington to fix government, not shut it down,” Meehan said. “At this point it's time for the House to vote for a clean, short-term funding bill to bring the Senate to the table and negotiate a responsible compromise.”

Actually the time for that would have been last week, before 800,000 federal employees were furloughed. Before tourists were turned away from Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, and local businesses dependent on those history buffs were left fretting over making ends meet. And before the ignominy of seeing “closed” signs hung on the Statue of Liberty and the World War II Memorial.

Meehan could have stood with his fellow Republican, Rep. Charlie Dent from Allentown, the only member of Congress (from either side, by the way) to break ranks. Dent defied the staunch Republican tea party activists who were driving this rig off the cliff. He voted against the move to defund Obamacare, which led directly to the government shutdown.

Meehan could have done the same. Instead he joined the “party.” Now, in the light of day and in the first hours of the hangover, a massive shutdown, he's having reconsidering his options.



He's joining Dent, along with Bucks County Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, and South Jersey's Jon Runyan, in pushing a new initiative that would fund the government without the staredown over Obamacare. On Wednesday Chester County Congressman Jim Gerlach added his voice to those seeking a new, “clean” vote.

It is interesting that all these Republicans come from moderate regions that either backed the president in the last election or showed razor-thin margins. Here in Delaware County, Meehan's home turf, the GOP has not carried a presidential election since George H.W. Bush won in 1988. Despite the district trending Democratic in presidential elections, Meehan cruised to an easy win in 2012. But it's clear he depends on swing votes from both Democrats and Republicans to hold the seat. Fitzpatrick and Runyan have been named top targets for Democrats in 2014. Meehan was believed to have a solid hold on his seat.

 

The federal shutdown has infuriated voters who see it as the latest in the brutal partisan atmosphere that now stands for “governing” in Washington. In this increasingly poisoned atmosphere, that notion of “governing” has fallen on a group of moderate Republicans who worked with Democrats. It's how the nation avoided going over the fiscal cliff last year.

Not this time.

The tea party Republicans had one thing in mind – and only one. They wanted to derail Obamacare, and they were willing to run the train off a cliff to do it.

They have done just that. Now, some of them are having second thoughts, Meehan included.

Meehan has done this tango with the tea party before in his time in D.C. He tries to stay in the middle of the road, but faces intense pressure to stay in lock-step with the conservative wing of his party. He has genuine concerns about Obamacare, and the damage he believes it will inflict on a still wobbling economy. He made that clear by joining with conservatives in backing the series of votes that led to this week's meltdown, including measures that would defund the Affordable Care Act, delay its implementation for a year, and repeal a tax on tax on medical-device makers. In a cruel twist, the government was shutting down at the same time the public was getting its first in-depth look at Obamacare.

This was not the time for Meehan and other Republicans to make that stand, not when so much was at stake, and so much harm would come from a shutdown.

We're glad he's had a change of heart. We concur with him that we don't send people to Washington to shut it down. We hope reports that other Republicans are considering joining those ranks come true.

We just wish he had felt that way last week.