Returning to Indiana this week, Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Coats says he disagreed with the strategy led by Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers such as Ted Cruz to de-fund the president’s health care law.
Coats has been a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act and introduced legislation to delay the law’s mandates.
But when asked if Cruz’s tactics were good for the GOP, Coats says the “math didn’t add up” on the Texas freshman’s strategy and conservative activists who support Cruz helped divide the party.
“All I know is Republicans took a very, very big hit. And the thing that I think was discouraging was the fact the outside groups that were supporting the shutdown plan—the goal of which was to sway Democrats to join Republicans—all the efforts were made to attack Republicans rather than put pressure on Democrats,” he says.
“I’m getting thousands of phone calls saying ‘why aren’t you doing more’ when all 46 (Republicans) in the United States Senate are for repeal of Obamacare and a better alternative. Why are we attacking each other? We ought to be focusing our displeasure towards the president and the Democrats.”
The GOP is hoping to move on from the government shutdown after taking the brunt of the blame in the polls.
Many conservative lawmakers believe now is the time to pivot and begin deficit reduction talks, which they argue will put the party on a better and more unified footing.
Currently, the national deficit stands at $700 billion in the face of two new fiscal deadlines: Jan. 15 to continue funding the government and a Feb. 7 deadline to extend the country’s borrowing limit.
Congress is expected to resume budget negotiations this month and observers contend the record-level of disapproval among Americans over the shutdown and possible default makes this the best time to cut a long-term budget deal.
“Americans are tired of this kicking the can down the road (and) this three-month soap opera drama that takes place that’s just put a whole cloud of uncertainty over the future. And given all that we’ve been through and following this latest shutdown I think the public wants us to govern,” says Coats.
The Congressional Budget Office shows the deficit dropped by 35 percent compared to the last fiscal year. However, many Democrats are calling for an end to the sequestration reductions that are partially responsible for that rapid decrease.
Thus far the early conversation appears to be centered on Republican efforts looking at entitlement reform and a Democratic push to close certain tax loopholes.
Coats says he wants a deal that will last for several years that addresses those mandatory spending items and also tackles tax reform.
Labor unions have already warned liberal lawmakers in Congress that any effort to change Social Security or Medicare will not be tolerated. Meanwhile, Tea Party activists are saying the fight has just begun and they’re targeting incumbents who voted for compromise—such as Mitch McConnell.
Coats was among the over two dozen GOP senators who voted for the plan negotiated by McConnell with Democratic Leader Harry Reid to re-open the government.
The Indiana senator defeated a Tea Party backed opponent in 2010, and tells WFPL he supports McConnell for re-election and over primary opponent Matt Bevin.
Coats says the GOP cannot begin to achieve its agenda as a minority if it doesn’t remain united.
“Everybody loses if we’re divided. And I’m hoping we can really find a way to be together on this and not divide ourselves to the point we end up as a permanent minority,” he says.