Conservatives Willing to Lose House Over Defunding Obamacare

GOP rift over health care law and government shutdown could weigh on 2014 elections.

The Republican split on defunding Obamacare could impact the 2014 elections.

The Republican split on defunding Obamacare could impact the 2014 elections.

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Rather than losing interest post-election, conservative groups are continuing to press their elected officials to walk the walk on their top issues, such as defunding the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's signature health care law scheduled for implementation in 2014.

They're even willing to lose control of the House over it.

"The Republican Party can no longer in good conscience take hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds and fund this thing; so they are going to have to answer to their base in 2014," says David Bozell, executive director of ForAmerica, a recently formed conservative political group. "I can really envision them losing the House over this, I really can."

[REPORT: Effort to Kill Obamacare With Shutdown Won't Work]

Bozell says that's what could happen if enough Republicans face off with tea party challengers because they refuse to follow up on promises to stop Obamacare. By predicting this move would result in Republicans losing the House, Bozell is inferring that enough Democrats would be able to defeat the more conservative candidates to regain control.

"Look, [House Majority Leader] Eric Cantor said he would defund this thing brick by brick; that was their pledge in 2010," he says. "Live up to your promises or get out of the way."

ForAmerica has teamed up with the Tea Party Patriots to fund what they say will be a seven-figure advertising campaign pressing Senate Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell among them, to join Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, in vowing to shutdown the government unless the health care bill is de-funded.

A television ad showing in Kentucky depicts McConnell as a chicken.

 

"The chicken is also representative of a new breed of Republicans in Washington – they tend to say one thing but when confronted with an opportunity to act, they often run, far away, without a sense of direction," the ad says, showing video of chickens. "Take Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. On the issue of Obamacare he says, 'This law is a disaster and I want you to know we're not backing down from this fight,' but when he has the chance to defund Obamacare, some say he's chickening out."

Similar ads will run in six states, including South Carolina, Texas, Illinois and New Hampshire, where Republicans face re-election.

It was enough when Republicans first wrested control of the House from Democrats in 2010 to hold successful votes on repealing the controversial health care law, Bozell says, but not anymore.

"People are realizing a lot of these votes to repeal Obamacare have been meaningless and they want action," he says. "There just doesn't seem to be any remedy or policy prescriptions that are coming out of the establishment wing of the Republican Party. We're just not being fooled by it anymore."

[OPINION: Why Republicans Want to Shut Down the Government This Time]

But even as the right-wing groups, including Heritage Action, which has been holding a series of anti-Obamacare town halls across the country over the August break, ramp up pressure, the more moderate branch of the party seems to finally be finding its voice.

Peter Wehner, who served as an adviser in both Bush administrations, took Cruz to task in particular for his mission to defund Obamacare.

"Senator Cruz's approach – ridiculing Republicans who aren't willing to shut down the government over Obamacare here, wishing impeachment were possible there – is harmful to conservatism," he wrote in Commentary Magazine Tuesday. "It may be produce short-term gains – but in the end, things like this often have a way of catching up with people."

And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who just received a Republican primary opponent, made the case for governance over blind ideology in an op-ed in The Tennessean also on Tuesday.

"Washington needs more, not fewer, conservatives who know how to govern," he wrote. "I know that if you only have 45 votes and you need 60 senators to get something important done like balancing the budget and fixing the debt, then you have to work with other people — that is, IF you really care about solving the problem, IF you really want to get a result, instead of just making a speech."