“The minority in the majority is calling the shots,” Boehlert said. “For them, compromise is a sinful exercise.” It was made worse because so many of their seats are gerrymandered, he said, that they don’t have to worry about re-election.
The situation was different when he was in Congress during the shutdown of 1995-96, he said. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at least working behind the scenes, having conversations with President Bill Clinton, Boehlert said.
Boehlert voted with Gingrich and other Republicans on one of two articles of impeachment against Clinton in 1998.
Boehlert said he can only learn about what is going on in the shutdown through the media, where so much of the information is biased on both sides. Although he still keeps in touch with members on both sides of the aisle, they’re cautious and afraid of being misconstrued because members of the media can take things out of context, he said.
But a majority of lawmakers are uncomfortable with the current situation, he said.
“They have to explain to their constituents why a group of extreme Republicans ride roughshod over the regular order,” he said.
Reflecting on the situation, “I am glad I’m not there,” Boehlert said. After talking with his wife, he decided not to run for re-election so he could spend more time with his family.
“We’ve had some wonderful years and done some wonderful things,” he said. “I don’t miss the day-to-day anxiety.”
Boehlert was in Washington on Wednesday to attend an upcoming dinner and board meeting for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group seeking to enhance the environment.
Boehlert is also a member of the board of Climate Reality Project. Headed by former Vice President Al Gore, its members are concerned about environmental and energy policy. It’s a natural extension on some of the work Boehlert performed while in the Congress, he said, where he served as chairman of the Science Committee.