U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren's decision Wednesday to buck House GOP leadership and be the only Illinoisan to vote against a deal to end the government shutdown could insulate him from some attacks from conservatives in his heavily Republican-leaning western suburban district.
With the support of most Democrats and Illinois Republicans like U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park and U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, the proposal eventually was approved easily without needing the support of Hultgren and a majority of House Republicans.
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"For him, to take the principled stand, he had nothing to lose by doing that," said East Dundee Trustee and local Republican official Allen Skillicorn.
Hultgren is up for election in 2014 in a district that includes some of the most conservative-voting areas in the suburbs. So far, he has no primary election challengers, although former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Republican, said Wednesday he hasn't ruled out running.
Critics have hammered the GOP for starting a budget fight over President Barack Obama's health care law and eventually walking away with nothing.
Hultgren said Wednesday he voted against the final deal because it didn't have concessions.
"The debt crisis is not make-believe, and I was not elected to stand by while we sacrifice our children's future for short-term political gain," Hultgren, of Winfield, said in a statement after the vote.
That's a position favored by the Tea Party at a time when challengers still have time to start up primary election campaigns.
"They have to worry on their right these days," said Chris Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. "I think this is an important vote and he did not take it lightly."
Talk radio host Walsh said Thursday he hasn't ruled out a primary challenge to Hultgren and continues to weigh his political options. But he said Wednesday's "no" vote should have been an easy one for Republicans and won't factor into his decision.
"This one vote makes very little difference," Walsh said.
Hultgren's vote split with other Republicans in the state. Roskam, of Wheaton, part of House Speaker John Boehner's leadership team, voted for the plan like other members of the group and said avoiding the country's first default was critical.
Kirk was one of the first GOP senators to call for a vote without the health care concessions. The move won him praise on the Senate floor from Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and bolstered the Highland Park Republican's reputation as a centrist. Praise from Durbin might irritate conservative members of the GOP, but Kirk rode his moderate reputation to a 2010 statewide victory -- a huge win for Republicans in a blue state when their candidate for governor was defeated the same year.
"He's about as moderate as you get in the U.S. Senate," Mooney said.
Local Democrats supported the deal Wednesday as expected. The party has used the shutdown to blast Republicans who tied health care to the budget debate.
They're likely to try to use the shutdown against incumbent Republicans nationwide in 2014, playing up the frustration many Americans felt over the weeks long budget stalemate.
"I don't know what we got out of this besides a bunch of people that got hurt," said U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat.