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Battle Within GOP Heats Up Over Plan To Defund ACA

Battle Within GOP Heats Up Over Plan To Defund ACA.

Battle lines over Affordable Care Act strategy became clearer Wednesday between factions of the Republican party: those willing to threaten a government shutdown to defund the law and those who view the plan as politically dangerous. As several outlets report, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the leaders of the movement, made a series of inflammatory comments designed to disparage the element of his party shying away from the tactic. Several others note that in a closed-door meeting, Speaker John Boehner discouraged, but did not reject the idea. Several other Republicans, though, remain outright opposed.

The AP (8/1, Weissert) reports that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) reiterated his desire Wednesday to use a Federal government shutdown to stop the Affordable Care Act, saying that the Continuing Resolution represents “the best opportunity…and quite possibly our last to effectively defund Obamacare,” On a call with reporters, the “tea party firebrand” said, “My focus for the next 61 days is very directly targeted to one thing, and that is working to defund Obamacare.”

Politico (7/31, Raju, Everett) reports that Cruz has been “unleashing a barrage of attacks on…fellow Republicans for refusing to support” his proposal to defund the law, and is “lashing out…in unusually personal terms.” Cruz is quoted as saying, “There is a powerful, defeatist approach among Republicans in Washington.” According to Politico, Cruz’s criticism has “sparked something of a GOP civil war over an issue that, ironically, the GOP is united behind – repealing Obamacare.” Upset that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not support the plan backed by Cruz, as well as Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, Jason Johnson, described as Cruz’s “chief political strategist,” tweeted: “Ted Cruz, Mike Lee & Rand Paul support #DefundObamacare – Mitch McConnell, Karl Rove & Barack Obama oppose. Clearer now?”

The Washington Times (8/1, Howell) adds that in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Cruz called on grassroots conservatives who support his plan to defund the ACA to “sign petitions and call their representatives on Capitol Hill before the spending debate in September.”

Other outlets reporting on Cruz’s continued calls for defunding the law are the Dallas Morning News (8/1, Gillman) “Trail Blazers” blog, the Washington Post  (8/1, Weiner) “Post Politics” blog, the Texas Tribune  (8/1, Muto), and the Daily Caller (8/1, Howley).

The Daily Caller  (8/1), reported that on MSNBC’s Hardball Wednesday, Chris Matthews, who “had been comparing Cruz to former Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy over the past few weeks based on his looks and demeanor,” called Cruz a “terrorist” for “threatening a government shutdown to stop Obamacare.” Matthews is quoted as saying, “This is more than obstructionism – this is political terrorism. It’s a strategy of mass destruction and demolition with the hope after the rubble is settled they’ll be the ones left around to pick up the pieces.”

Politico  (8/1, Byers) reports that afterwards, Matthews’ guests, David Axelrod and former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt, cautioned that the term “terrorist” ought to be “reserved for people like the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.”

In addition to Cruz, The Hill  (8/1, Easley) reports that Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) “hit back at GOP critics Tuesday, saying they would have to answer to their constituents for abandoning the fight against” the Affordable Care Act.

Politico  (8/1, Gold) adds that Lee said, “Those kinds of statements are not helpful, those kinds of statements are divisive, but they are nothing compared to what we will hear from the American people when they discover that this laws goes into effect.”

Boehner Not Completely Opposed To Plan. Despite continued calls from Senators Cruz, Lee, and Rubio, much of the Republican party remains opposed to the shutdown. In an article titled “House Republicans Leery Of ‘Obamacare’ Defunding Idea,” Reuters  (8/1, Cowan, Bohan) reports on the battle between the Tea Party and more senior wings of the GOP over the plan to defund the Affordable Care Act by threatening a government shutdown. According to Representative Pat Tiberi (R-OH), who the article notes is close to Speaker John Boehner, House leadership is likely to not get on board with the campaign, led by Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. Another top Republican, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), says that he has seen “an awful lot of push-back” against the idea.

One high ranking Republican, however, is not completely ruling out the plan. The Wall Street Journal  (8/1, Britt, Subscription Publication) reports that Speaker John Boehner, responding to whether he would support shutting down the government to defund the Affordable Care Act, said, “We have made no decisions.” According to a tweet from ABC News Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, this translates to “Hopefully not, but maybe?” Still, the article notes that several other high profile Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain, have all spoken out against the plan.

CNN  (8/1, Walsh) reports that although Boehner has not “overtly rul[ed] out” the plan, he is “laying out an alternative strategy to avoid a government shutdown.” According to one source at House Republican meeting Wednesday, Boehner tried to “gently hold members’ hands and walk them away from this.”

Also reporting on Boehner’s reluctance to rule out the plan are The Hill  (8/1, Berman), Politico  (8/1, Sherman), and Roll Call  (8/1, Fuller, Subscription Publication).

Outlets reporting on other Republicans who have explicitly spoken against the plan include the Roll Call  (8/1, Fuller, Subscription Publication), Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press  (8/1), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (8/1, Lambrecht), and the Springfield (MO) News-Leader  (8/1, Shesgreen, King).

The Hill  (8/1, Baker) “Healthwatch” blog reports that a new poll from the Morning Consult website showed that “voters oppose forcing a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare.” The survey “found broad opposition among registered voters to conservative Republicans’ threat,” and by a two-to-one margin, “voters said they would be less likely to vote for a lawmaker who cast such a vote.”

Commentary Considers Republican Plan To Defund ACA. A number of notable outlets carry opinion pieces weighing in on the plan to link defunding the Affordable Care Act to a possible government shutdown. Overwhelmingly, most criticize the plan, noting that it is unlikely to stop the law, and could quite possibly work against the GOP. For example, Gail Collins, in her column for the New York Times  (8/1, Collins, Subscription Publication), calls Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio the current “show horses” of the Senate who seem to be gearing up for a White House bid. Their attempts to “get Republicans to promise not to vote to fund the government this fall unless the president cancels Obamacare,” proves that the GOP has a “crush on crazy.”

The Washington Post  (8/1, Kliff) “Wonkblog” predicts that even if the plan to defund the ACA got enough Republican votes, President Obama would likely offer a veto, and further, “even if the government did shut down, it wouldn’t stop the law’s implementation.” And although the blog concludes it is “pretty difficult” to stop the law at this point, it offers a few strategies to “dismantle or at least disassemble a few pieces” of it.

Steve Benen writes on the Maddow Blog  (8/1) that Cruz “apparently believes destroying the economic fabric of the country by holding the functions of government hostage to a non-negotiable demand to eliminate Obamacare is a fine idea.”

Martin Bashir writes on the MSNBC  (8/1) website to “clear the air” about the “dishonest and deceitful” Republican crusade against the Affordable Care Act. The latest example of this, he offers, is Senator Ted Cruz’s plan to defeat the law.

Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post  (8/1, Sargent) “Plum Line” blog that Boehner is “feeding the delusion” that defunding the Affordable Care Act is possible, which he calls “dishonest.”

Alex Altman, on the Time  (8/1) “Swampland” blog, suggests that Cruz “is inviting a showdown that could result in the party shouldering the blame for a shutdown.”

Conor Fridersdorf calls the plan “deeply irresponsible” in a piece for the Atlantic  (8/1).

Just a few appear vaguely supportive of the plan. For example, in his Los Angeles Times  (8/1) column, Doyle McManus says that despite initial media coverage of Sen. Ted Cruz (R), which “painted him as a nutty combination of Joseph McCarthy and Sarah Palin,” he is “wacko like a fox.” As evidence of that, McManus says Cruz’s aspiration to “recast the Republican Party’s economic message to embrace both low-income voters and the Mitt Romney set,” or as the senator calls it “‘opportunity conservatism’…is drawing fervent support from social conservatives, economic conservatives and libertarians at the same time. Still, the piece notes that many in his party have “denounced’ his plan to defund the Affordable Care Act as “suicidal.”

Perhaps most notably, Karl Rove, in a column for the Wall Street Journal  (8/1, Subscription Publication) titled, “Setting A Budget Trap For Republicans: Obama Is Baiting The GOP To Shut Down The Government In The Fall,” makes the case that Republicans will have a good opportunity to present themselves as the champions of spending cuts in the fall as Congress debates the fate of the sequester and whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. However, Rove does not mention Cruz, nor the intra-GOP debate over ACA strategy.

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