A pair of conservative groups are kicking off their campaign to de-fund President Obama’s health care law in Kentucky to pressure Republican Senator Leader Mitch McConnell and other lawmakers.
For America and Tea Party Patriots visited the state on Tuesday to launch the “Exempt America Tour,” which plans to visit the political doorsteps of five key GOP leaders in Congress including stops in Virginia, Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina.
The tour plans to draws attention to efforts to take out funding for Obamacare in the budget, which is being led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., and supported by a handful of other Republican senators.
It’s a strategy that’s divided the GOP, with leaders in Washington voicing caution while conservative activists—such as former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin—arguing “forced enrollment” is unconstitutional.
“People in Kentucky and Senator McConnell know that we don’t think Americans should have to pay for Obamacare. That’s why we’re in Kentucky,” says For America campaign manager Scott Hogenson. “And we’re starting in Kentucy because as the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, we think he’s the first person we want to talk to.”
Critics of this strategy say the Tea Party and others are playing into the Obama administration and Senate Democrat’s hands. That pushing for a standoff to shut down the federal government will not work.
“I’m for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare,” McConnell told a crowd in Corbin, Ky., two weeks ago.
A study by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s office backs up McConnell’s claim and fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called it a “dumb idea” in a recent interview. But McConnell is facing a primary challenge and more conservative groups are using that as an opportunity to openly questioning his leadership as implementation of the health care law looms
For instance, the exempt tour falls on the same day a radio ad by Senate Conservatives Fund criticized McConnell for refusing to lead the defund effort.
In response, McConnell’s re-election campaign told WFPL no one has opposed the law more vigorously than the senator, who said he wants it repealed “root and branch” at a Kentucky State Fair event last week.
McConnell pushing back against the right flank hasn’t gone unnoticed by tea partiers, however. And conservative activists appear fed up with McConnell pounding Obamacare on the campaign trail while not backing their conservative efforts in Washington.
“Just this morning one of his campaign press people said ‘no one has done more to fight Obamacare than Sen. McConnell.’ And that’s just false,” says Hogenson. “I can tell you right now that Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, those three gentleman have done more to fight Obamacare in the last three weeks than Mitch McConnell’s done in the past three years.”