FLETCHER, N.C. (AP) — A national tea party effort is highlighting differences among North Carolina Republicans over just how to handle President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
The president of Tea Party Express, a California-based group that bills itself as the largest political action committee in the tea party movement, came Tuesday to western North Carolina to praise Rep. Mark Meadows for being one of about 80 House Republicans who have promised in writing to deny funding for implementing the health care law, despite worries from GOP leaders that it could lead to a government shutdown.
“It takes someone special to be able to stand up and do the right thing and stand on principle and not cave to leadership and to others around you,” Kremer said, standing beside Meadows.
But Kremer also used the stop, one of several on a national tour, to call out Republicans who haven’t committed to “defund Obamacare.” She specifically named Rep. Renee Ellmers, the second-term congresswoman who used social media last week to blast activists who want Congress to cut off money for the law at the start of the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Ellmers, who was elected as part of the 2010 tea party wave, was reacting specifically to ads launched by the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. The ads pressure Republicans, including her, who oppose using the September budget votes as leverage on the health care law.
“Why is @Heritage_Action spending $550K to attack conservatives but not @KayHagan who was a deciding vote on #Obamacare?” she said via Twitter, referring to North Carolina’s Democratic senator, who is running for re-election next year.
The looming budget votes come just as the key provisions of Obama’s law are set to launch. Starting Oct.1, consumers in every state can shop for private individual policies in online exchanges, with many getting taxpayer subsidies for premiums. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, states that choose to participate can expand their Medicaid programs to cover low-income adults who don’t now qualify for the government insurance.
Freshman senators Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas have led the call for the House to deny funding for the executive branch to carry out the health care law. But those resolutions would go nowhere in the Democratically controlled Senate, setting up the potential for shutting down major portions of government for lack of money if Congress doesn’t pass any appropriations at all.
House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have openly expressed concerns that any form of a shutdown could hurt Republicans, as it did during Bill Clinton’s presidency, when most voters blamed then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and Republicans for halting services. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also has declined to endorse the “defunding” effort.
Ellmers’ spokesman, Tom Doheny, confirmed in a written statement Tuesday that his boss once endorsed the “defunding” strategy. But Doheny said that was before the 2012 election. He saidObama’s victory and Democrats’ continued control of the Senate dictate a different approach, rather than “a misguided tactic (that) will only replace one economic disaster with another one.”
Kremer said of Ellmers, “I haven’t given up on the congresswoman yet.”
The tea party leader did not name other North Carolina GOP officials who have sided with party leaders. Sen. Richard Burr recently called the tea party budget strategy “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry, whose district borders Meadows’, has reminded angry constituents at town hall meetings this month that the health care law was written so that most of the spending — Medicaid expansion and premium subsidies — is automatic and doesn’t require new appropriations.
Kremer was sensitive to the political dynamics of a shutdown. But she insisted it would be Obama and Senate Democrats who’d be responsible if they chose not to pass a tea party-backed spending plan from the House.
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