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Loebsack hopeful on end to shutdown

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | OCTOBER 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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During the country’s first government shutdown in nearly two decades, one West Branch business has seen a 50 percent drop in its sales and revenues.

Stories such as that of Reid’s Beans prompted Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, to return to his home state on Sunday to share in the concern and call for a swift solution.

Jonathan Blundall and Laura Rierson, co-owners of the coffee shop at 106 E. Main St., said they suspect the decrease in business is the result of the closure of the state’s only presidential library, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. The pair noted that as the town’s major tourist attraction, many locals now find themselves out of work.

On the first day alone, Rierson said she saw a 75 percent drop. Since then, two groups have canceled scheduled parties for this week.

“It’s important to note that in the last 20 years one of the only growing sectors of the Iowa economy is tourism,” Blundall said. “It’s a growing sector of our economy as a whole. These are the sectors that are getting hammered because of the uncertainty.”

Loebsack said his preferred way to deal with the situation is to bring a clean continuing resolution — which would reopen the government with previous funding levels —to the floor and vote on it.
He said he is most concerned with the drastic toll the shutdown will take on the general public.

“There will be folks who will be put out of work,” he said. “The unemployment rate will go back up. The economy, as weak as it is, is going to be affected, and that will affect everybody, one way or another.”

For Blundall, the on-going shutdown has affected more than just business.

“[The shutdown] kind of paralyzed the community,” he said.

In speaking with locals, Rierson said as others have shown similar concerns, she felt compelled to take action.

After a call to a longtime customer who works for Loebsack, the congressman felt the need to make the visit.

“It wouldn’t have mattered to us who came here,” she said. “I just want somebody to listen to what we have to say, so they understand their actions are influencing and affecting the people they say they’re fighting for.”

Loebsack said because he had some down time before members return to the Capitol this evening, he felt he could spend his time usefully by visiting his home ground.

However, Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, argued his time in Iowa was not well-spent.

“He should probably be in D.C. working on trying to find a compromise to get this settled,” he said. “There’s a fine line between getting feedback from constituents and coming back just to get your name in the paper and grab some headlines.”

And although taxpayers paid for his trip to Iowa, Loebsack maintained the visit was the best thing for him to do.

“I do what I can to try to balance my time in Iowa and my time in Washington,” he said.

University of Iowa Associate Professor of political science Timothy Hagle said although predictions are hard to make, if a piece of legislation aimed at bringing the government out of the shutdown and brought to the floor, he is not convinced a majority agreement will be reached by midnight tonight.

He does, however, foresee pressures on Congress will rise as the country comes closer to hitting the debt ceiling come mid-October.

“Once we get out of October, if they are still in this shutdown, then things get very, very serious,” he said. “[My guess would be] we’ll likely see some sort of a solution before the end of the month, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt until then.”

Loebsack, too, said he could not come to a definite prediction, but he is hopeful the shutdown will end soon.

“I wouldn’t counsel patience at all,” he said. “People should be impatient. This is unacceptable. There is nothing to be patient about. This has to be done now.”


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