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No. 2 House Democrat: GOP lawmakers running scared

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democratic leaders discuss the government shutdown and their disagreement with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. There has been no sign of progress toward ending an impasse that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country. From left to right are Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The No. 2 House Democrat says a key factor extending the government shutdown is fear among moderate Republicans about a tea party challenge.

Maryland's Rep. Steny Hoyer says he believes 140 to 160 of the 232 House Republicans "think what's being done right now is irrational." Hoyer tells MSNBC Monday these lawmakers are "looking over their shoulders" at potential tea party challenges.

Hoyer said GOP friends have told him privately that they don't understand the uncompromising position taken by the more conservative members of their caucus, lawmakers who have fallen into line with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others.

Hoyer said the partial government shutdown now in effect is different from past closures "because this is a tactic. This is not a result of the inability to get an agreement."