Rigell said some Republicans opposed to the strategy pursued by their House leadership have remained mum until now because "there was a chance we could have gotten some movement."
Still others have remained silent, he said, because of the threat a primary challenge from tea party-backed candidates who may accuse them of breaching conservative principles.
After the 2010 Census, Republicans who control the majority of state legislatures redrew many House districts to shore up vulnerable lawmakers by boosting the concentration of friendly partisan voters in their districts and packing Democrats into urban pockets. The process is called gerrymandering and both parties are adept at it.
The redrawn lines mean the greater risks to incumbents often come from within their own party, which discourages working across the aisle, said Jim Nussle, a former Republican representative and budget director under President George W. Bush.
He also cited rapid turnover during the past two election cycles that has led to "a lot of very green people who've never even passed an amendment" in a subcommittee and don't understand the legislative process.
"They're not experienced legislators, they're worried about primaries at home, and the new media is making it difficult for them to stake out any other position than the extreme position," Nussle said.
He recalled the last partial government shutdown in 1995- 96, when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and had unified policy positions with goals for a revision of the welfare system, changes in Medicare, and a balanced budget.
"I look at this and I just shake my head," said Nussle. "This is nothing like last time," he said. "It's a very naïve and ignorant understanding of how to govern."
Rigell said the party's current predicament isn't surprising. "We've essentially gerrymandered ourselves into this," he said.