Those votes, the local Republicans said, were examples of their willingness to focus on results despite divided government.
"No bills become law in Washington today without Republican votes in the House, Democratic votes in the Senate, and a Democratic president signing the bill," said Rep. Charlie Dent of Allentown, one of the Republicans who broke ranks. "On either side, right or left, no one can be that rigid in their ideology so that it prevents us from actually governing."
But the same factor that tends to make local House Republicans more flexible than most - moderate districts - also locks them in the political crosshairs. With most congressional seats safely rigged by both parties, Republicans who hold those seats in Bucks, Delaware, and Burlington Counties occupy some of the few battlegrounds left, making them constant targets for Democratic pressure and election-year challenges.
The day after the Sandy vote, Democrats thanked four of the local Republicans by sending out e-mail blasts asking if, in a fight over the debt limit, they would "take the economy hostage to satisfy the Tea Party extremists?"
Last week, Democrats launched Web ads aimed at Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks and Jon Runyan of Burlington over looming automatic budget cuts. A Democratic super PAC has named Fitzpatrick one of its 10 top targets for 2014, and labor groups ran radio ads pounding him and Rep. Patrick Meehan of Delaware County during the fiscal cliff fight.
"The extremes seem to drive a lot of the debate on each side," Meehan said in an interview, "but both sides end up taking it out on the very people who are trying to reach a resolution."
The situation leaves local House Republicans on a political tightrope: In moderate regions, they are part of a caucus that has moved rightward and often calls for confrontation.
Obama will likely need their votes to secure passage of any bills on the budget, guns, or immigration, but at the same time Democrats are aiming to unseat them in 2014 as the party tries to retake the House.
"They're in a precarious political situation," said Michele Swers, a political scientist at Georgetown University. "They're always trying to figure out, 'How do I serve my constituency and how do I be loyal to my party?' "
Faced with that pressure, most moderates have retired or been pushed out in wave elections, said Lara Brown, a Villanova University political scientist. Meanwhile, redistricting has left many lawmakers with such partisan constituencies that compromise is a liability.
The seven local House Republicans - Pennsylvania's Dent, Meehan, Fitzpatrick, and Jim Gerlach, and New Jersey's Runyan, Frank LoBiondo, and Chris Smith - were all near dead-center on House vote ratings published last week by the National Journal; Dent, Fitzpatrick, and Smith fell within decimal points of the exact middle.
When the conservative Americans for Prosperity issued grades last week, each of the local House Republicans got C's.
The results mirror the demands of those districts, even though redistricting has rendered them safer for the GOP.
"In a district like mine, or like Mike Fitzpatrick's, I think we probably have a better sense of compromise, maybe, than some other members," Dent said Wednesday in an interview. "We understand that we have to work with people on both sides of the aisle to get things done and, frankly, in order to get elected."
(Some GOP colleagues from more partisan districts, Dent said, voted no on the fiscal cliff compromise - but then privately thanked him for his vote to secure a deal and end the economic showdown.)
At the State of the Union speech, Dent and Fitzpatrick wore the orange "No Labels" pins of a new bipartisan group that aims to bridge political divides.
The conservative 2010 wave that swept Fitzpatrick, Meehan, and Runyan into office and won Republicans the House, though, has also tugged them rightward at times, opening vulnerabilities. Local Republicans all supported Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's conservative budget blueprint, an issue Democrats highlighted in campaigns last year.
"Calling yourself a moderate in this tea party Republican Congress is like saying you're the smart one on Jersey Shore," said Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Dent and Meehan still have disagreements with Obama. Voters, Dent said, "expect us to be a hard check against ideological excesses. "
Back home last week for a recess, Meehan said the main plea he heard from constituents was simple: "Just get things done."
Contact Jonathan Tamari
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