Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday his Republican Party clearly paid a price because of the federal government shutdown, but it remains to be seen whether the hard-line approach by Sen. Mike Lee and others in the GOP was the right move.
Herbert said he met with Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and expressed his concerns about their strategy of refusing to approve a budget that didn’t deny funding to the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — and that other Republican governors shared his worries.
Nonetheless, the impasse in Congress resulted in a shutdown. Polls show that, in the public’s mind, Republicans bear the brunt of the blame, Herbert said during his monthly news conference on KUED.
"As a Republican, I think there’s blame to go around for everybody. I don’t think it’s fair or right to let Democrats off the hook as if they had nothing to do with the shutdown," Herbert said, faulting President Barack Obama for failing to resolve the stalemate. "It’s unfair to say Senator Lee is all to blame for this."
Time, he added, will tell if the shutdown was good or bad.
"Hopefully, we all learned from the process," Herbert said. "Who’s to say who’s right or wrong? I’ll just say to you, [in] the shutdown there were no winners, and the attempt to shut down the federal government, I don’t think, is a good idea and I’m disappointed we got to that point."
Utah also received a $666,288 refund Thursday, repayment for an unused portion of the $1.7 million the state paid to reopen eight national parks and monuments during the federal closure.
The $1.7 million the state gave to the U.S. Interior Department was meant to operate the parks for 10 days, an attempt to ease the blow to tourist communities around the parks. But with the shutdown ending six days later, Washington was obligated to refund the unused portion.
Getting the rest of the money repaid is more complicated. Congress will have to approve those funds.
Five members of Utah’s federal delegation are working for reimbursement.
Herbert said he believes the state will be made whole. "I’m pretty confident we’re going to get the money back," he said, "and it certainly was worth it."
The $166,700 the state spent each day to operate the parks brought $3 million in economic activity that otherwise would have been lost, said Herbert, calling the shutdown a "cataclysmic problem."
He also expects Colorado to repay Utah for money used to send Utah National Guard troops there to help respond to devastating floods.
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