WEST CHESTER, Ohio — In House Speaker John Boehner’s suburban Ohio hometown, people are starting to feel the pain of the federal government shutdown and some are getting anxious about his standoff with President Barack Obama.
The southwest Ohio area Boehner has represented since he was a township trustee four decades ago has grown steadily in that time, with hundreds of small businesses rising along Interstate 75 about 20 miles north of Cincinnati.
Now they’re wondering, along with the rest of the country, how long the shutdown will last, whether an accord will be reached to avoid the country’s first financial default, how Obama’s health care overhaul will play out, and how delays in their business because of the shutdown will affect the bottom line.
“If things continue down this road, it’s going to affect all of us,” said Joe Hinson, president of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance.
Uncertainty about what’s ahead can show up in everything from scuttled real estate deals to the size of tips that people leave to restaurant workers, he said.
“There’s a trickle-down effect,” Hinson said before leading the chamber’s monthly luncheon meeting this week at the Wetherington Golf & Country Club.
While the House speaker was in a stare-down with the president in Washington, businesspeople networking before lunch in West Chester, where Boehner has his home, described how they’re being affected.
“We can’t get stuff finalized to close,” said Rob Young of VanDyk Mortgage. “Things are sitting idle.”
Young and others in the business said home sales and mortgage approvals are getting held up because of curtailed operations by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies needed in closing sales and loans.
William Keck, a business attorney for the Millikin & Fitton law firm, described delays in starting new companies and settling the estates of people who’ve recently died. They’ve had difficulty getting federal identification numbers and other information needed to open bank accounts, get insurance payouts, transfer stock and process estates.
“There are some real hassles,” Keck said. “They’re not the end of the world, but they’re just holding up a lot of the economy.”
Others said hiring employees also has been complicated by a lack of federal information, including the free E-Verify service that employers use to make sure prospective workers are legal.
“We’re spending more time and money to make sure we’re doing our due diligence,” said Ketan Pema, operating partner of The Drycleaning Shop, which wants to add two workers to its current 10.
Pema said the business is paying a third party for pre-employment background checks.
Boehner spokeswoman Brittany Bramell said his office has received thousands of calls and emails from constituents in the district, most of them supportive.
Chamber president Hinson said that while many are frustrated by the standoff, they are proud of Boehner’s national profile, feel a sense of shared values because of his entrepreneurial background and realize he’s “in a tough situation.”
“It’s just too big. It’s not up to one person. It’s both sides,” said Young when asked whether Boehner should do more to break the impasse. He said both sides need to work together to find middle ground.
Boehner has been re-elected by wide margins since he first won the seat in 1990, but he does have critics in the heavily Republican area where some conservatives didn’t like him voting to authorize Obama to take military action against Syria and don’t think he’s been forceful enough against the health care overhaul and on immigration.
Eric Gurr, a computer consultant from neighboring Liberty Township, is one of three Republicans who plan to challenge Boehner in next year’s primary. Gurr said he feels “disconnected” from the House speaker after being a Boehner supporter.
He said many conservatives in the district want Boehner to stand firm and they’re impressed that Boehner’s showing “a little standup attitude.” But, he said, “The underlying current is that he’s going to cave, and we are not going to get the changes we need.”