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House Republicans say their constituents not worried about shutdown

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.: "Most members feel like the voters in their districts are starting to understand what the battle's about." (Laura Segall/Getty Images)

House Republicans, meeting behind closed doors Tuesday, remained unified and in high spirits one week into the government shutdown caused by Congress' inability to approve a funding plan.

They joked about reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had barred Vice President Joe Biden from budget negotiations, and continued to demand that Democrats meet them halfway and agree to weaken the Affordable Care Act to end the stalemate.

But if Democrats had hoped House Republicans would cave under pressure from the public to end the government shutdown, it's not happening — in no small part because many House Republicans are hearing mostly messages of support back home.

When Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., returned to his district over the weekend, not one of his constituents urged him to end the government shutdown. Instead, Huelskamp said, "People came up to me in church and people came up to me in the store and made very supportive comments."

“They were 100 percent supportive of our efforts," he added. "They’re tired of the shenanigans, tired of the games. People don’t like Obamacare in Kansas, and here we are taking a stand on that.”

When the House concluded its business for the weekend on Saturday, there was some speculation that House Republicans would face a backlash during their first visit home since the government shut down. But in their meeting Tuesday, they indicated that, if anything, some pressure had been lifted.

"Most members feel like the voters in their districts are starting to understand what the battle’s about," said Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.

The phone calls Republican lawmakers have received have been more mixed than in-person interactions, several lawmakers said, but still favor their strategy. Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., said 63 percent of the calls he has received have been positive and encouraged him to "hold the line."

And, if there isn't an acute pressure from voters on House Republicans to authorize the funding needed to reopen the government, there's even less urgency to raise the debt limit among some conservative rank-and-file members.

"We're so far out from that," Huelskamp said, referring to the Oct. 17 deadline. "Even though the president would love to tie those two together, at the end of the day the [continuing resolution to fund the government] has got to be finished, we're under extraordinary pressure to reopen the government, and I think we're making progress. So, we'll finish the CR, and then we'll go to the debt ceiling."