Polls show the Republican Party at rock bottom. The shutdown, the obsession with unwinding Obamacare, the default denying ““ all are wiping away support for the GOP’s approach among voters.
But don’t tell that to any one of the religious conservatives at the Values Voter Summit.
To these church leaders, anti-abortion activists, gay marriage opponents, and gun owners ““ who vote straight-ticket Republican ““ the showdown over the Affordable Care Act that led to the federal shutdown was worth it, and mainstream Republicans’ worry about the 2014 implications are, plainly, ridiculous.
“I think Obamacare is the worst thing in this nation since slavery,” said Ben Carson, a speaker at the conference and an African-American retired neurosurgeon who joined Fox News as a contributor this week.
And while Ted Cruz and Mike Lee continue to come under heated criticism from Washington colleagues for precipitating a crisis they did not know how to resolve, attendees here praised the tea party senators for their leadership.
“I for one am sick of the whining that’s going on from the Republican Party and from some in the conservative movement itself,” said Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group. “Until Ted Cruz came along with Mike Lee “¦ they had no plan A.”
To this crowd, which holds sway over the Republican Party because of its outsized share of the primary electorate, ideological principles matter more than the bad poll numbers coming in that show GOP tactics badly hurting the party.
A new Gallup poll found only 28 percent of Americans view the GOP favorably, an all-time low for either party since 1992. The latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found a 24 percent favorability rating, also a record low. The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found 65 percent of Americans do not want Republicans to tie efforts to defund or delay Obamacare to the government funding bill.
These surveys and others are leading moderate Republicans from the business community and political establishment to increasingly challenge House Republicans’ tactics.
“To go to war over an impossible objective (repealing Obamacare) is not only woefully ineffective, it is political suicide,” former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, a Republican who served in the Bush administration, told National Journal. “I am alarmed by the lack of a coherent strategy by my party.”
The ongoing conflict over the health care law has exacerbated the rift in the Republican Party between pragmatists with an eye on 2014 and 2016 and the conservative ideologues who filled the hotel ballroom at the annual conference sponsored by the Family Research Council. The mention of Cruz’s filibuster-like tirade against the health care law brought the crowd to its feet.
“It was the right thing to do,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. “Obamacare is objectionable enough to make this kind of a stand to show how odious it is.”
The budget showdown was even worth it to Jim Neuberger, a government contractor from Clifton, Va., who was able to attend the conference with his wife and two daughters because he’s been furloughed. “Just because it’s a law doesn’t make it right,” said Neuberger, who is worried the Affordable Care Act will disrupt his family’s insurance plan. “It’s a clash of principles.”
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The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released its score of the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would replace Obamacare. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026, while leaving 14 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 than under current law, a number swelling to 23 million by 2026. Further, insurance premiums would balloon 20 percent in 2018 and five percent in 2019 before the waiver provision in the legislation would kick in. The provision allows states to apply for waivers and permit insurers to offer skimpier plans, which would likely entice younger and healthier individuals to buy health insurance while potentially pricing older and less healthy Americans out of insurance plans. House Republicans approved this bill in late April without waiting for the CBO score.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that President Donald Trump's budget is little more than recycling bin material. "The budget proposed by the president doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing," Graham said. Graham had previously opposed the budget over its nearly 30 percent cut to the budget of the State Department. The budget slashes spending on domestic priorities while increasing military spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't yet know the formula towards gaining passage of an Obamacare replacement in the Senate. "I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," McConnell said. The House passed an Obamacare replacement bill which has been widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, and McConnell has put together a working group of Republican Senators working towards creating health care legislation which could gain the support of at least 50 Senators.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."