Sen. Mike Lee Softens GOP Tone

Mike Lee pushes for tax reform, Obamacare alternatives in speech.

Sen. Mike Lee R-Utah speaks during the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Washington.
By + More

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants the GOP to expand its tent.

During a speech Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation, Lee called for a reunification of the Republican Party, which has been torn apart in recent months as it has navigated through immigration, a government shutdown and countless fiscal fights centered on Obamacare.

"It's time for another great debate, and we should welcome all input. Grass roots and establishment. Conservatives and moderates. Libertarians and traditionalists. Interventionists and non-interventionists. Economic conservatives and social conservatives.," Lee said. "All are part of our movement, and all are vital to our success – so all should be welcome in this debate."

The tone was softer than the no compromise, conservative voice Lee has become synonymous with in the past.

[READ: Republicans Seek New Strategy for Campaigns]

Lee, after all, helped pitch and promote a plan to defund the Affordable Care Act using the federal government's funding bill, a move that ultimately led to a 16-day government shutdown. He's often regarded as the wingman to conservative stalwart Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., and has been called one of the "wacko birds," by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Tuesday, Lee sought to stop the intra-party name calling.

"American conservatism, at its core, is about gratitude, and cooperation, and trust, and above all hope. It is also about inclusion," Lee said. "Successful political movements are about identifying converts, not heretics. This, too, is part of the challenge before us."

Lee said he was "proud" of his friend and tea party frontman Cruz, but warned that it's time for the GOP to step back and re-evaluate its priorities and try to get back on the same page.

Lee attempted to draw lessons from the past, making comparisons between the GOP's current infighting and the late 1970s when conservatives appeared at odds.

"Of course, we know now that Reagan and the conservative movement were vindicated in 1980," Lee said, noting that a clear road map made that transformation possible.

[READ: GOP Congressman's Staff Votes Against Signing Up for Obamacare]

Lee called on the GOP to focus on creating opportunities and helping strengthen the middle class. He argued Republicans should continue to develop their own alternatives to Obamacare and the GOP should look to reform the tax code. He announced his own plan to reduce the gas tax.

"The gaping hole in the middle of the Republican Party today – the one that separates the grass roots from establishment leaders - is precisely the size and shape of a new, unifying conservative reform agenda."

More News: