A Day in the Life: One Republican's Quest for Compromise in an Age of Hardliners

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"Regardless of whether it's that date or a day earlier or three or four days later, there is a real deadline at some point and I certainly think we should pay our bills, pay all of our bills and pay all of our bills on time," Lance said.

"On time," he said again and again for emphasis. "On time."

Another frustration: business at the Capitol has all but ground to a halt.

The committee meetings where the lion's share of Congress's work is usually conducted aren't being held. And there are few aides to hold them.

Four members of Lance's staff are still furloughed. Interns can fill holes by answering phones, but they can't take on the work that will pile up until the shutdown has ended.

Lance walked into a meeting with the Energy and Commerce staff Tuesday afternoon for an update on a bipartisan piece of legislation that would permanently fix a broken formula the government uses to reimburse Medicare doctors (commonly referred to as "doc fix"), which is likely to get held up by the pressing government shutdown and debt-limit issues.

Standing in an empty Energy and Commerce Committee room, where his is a member and a subcommittee vice chairman, Lance can't stop emphasizing that one of the most powerful committees in Congress is out of commission while the shutdown is in place.

"Very often this committee operates in a very bipartisan way and I just can't wait to get back to committee," Lance said, his words echoing off the walls of a barren chamber.

"The committee would be in session this week except for the shutdown and I want to make sure that it's up and running as quickly as possible because we do important bipartisan work in this committee and often it's not reported because what we do is step by step to try to benefit the American people."

He and others like him are stuck between a rock and hard place on the government shutdown.

On the one hand, Lance voted in unison with his colleagues for Republican-backed proposals that would tie government funding to a defunding of Obama's health care law, or a delay in the law's signature provision, the individual mandate.

On the other hand, he a few Democrats and Republicans, led by Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., met over lunch Tuesday to strategize a "mainstream" resolution to the whole thing.

But for what they possess in bipartisan good feeling, they lack in action, or perhaps just a game plan on which they can all agree.

"We just sort of talk, no resolution, no decision about how we're going to move forward," Lance said.

As for moving forward together, "There's talk about that," he added.

"Why don't we together move forward? I think there's a variety of opinions."

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