December 26, 2013

Health care tactics split GOP Senate rivals

Some midterm-election candidates support fixing the new law, others want it repealed.

By Bill Barrow
The Associated Press

ATLANTA – Most Republicans agree the unwieldy health care overhaul offers a golden opportunity for the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections. What they don’t agree on is what tactics to use in opposing that unpopular law.

In a number of Senate primaries, conservatives are arguing over the best way to oppose President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishment. The outcome of those campaigns could affect the battle over which party controls the Senate.

In intraparty skirmishes from Georgia to Nebraska, the GOP’s most strident candidates and activists are insisting on a no-holds-barred approach. They accuse fellow Republicans – including several incumbent senators – of being too soft in their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and to the president in general.

The struggle will help determine just how conservative the Senate Republican caucus will be during Obama’s final two years. And it could influence which party controls the chamber, with Democrats hoping that the most uncompromising Republican standard-bearers will emerge from the primaries and fare as poorly in general elections as their counterparts did in several 2012 Senate races. Republicans need to gain six seats for a majority.

Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, who wants to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, stepped into the rift recently when he seemed to scold much of his party during an interview on a conservative talk radio show.

“A lot of conservatives say, ‘Nah, just step back and let this thing fall to pieces on its own,” Kingston said. “Well, I don’t think that’s always the responsible thing to do.”

Rep. Paul Broun, one of Kingston’s rivals in a crowded primary field, pounced immediately, declaring in an Internet ad, “I don’t want to fix Obamacare, I want to get rid of it.” Conservative commentators hammered Kingston with headlines like “Kingston has surrendered on Obamacare.”

In Tennessee, state Rep. Joe Carr blasted Sen. Lamar Alexander for serving as a key GOP negotiator in the deal to end the partial government shutdown that resulted from House Republicans’ efforts to deny funding for the health care law. Alexander subsequently described himself as a “conservative problem solver,” a characterization that Carr says “typifies how out of touch he is.”

Kentucky businessman Matt Bevin is using a similar line of attack in trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as is Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his primary challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran. Carr, Bevin and McDaniel all say they’d be more like freshmen Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, tea party favorites who pushed the defunding strategy and vexed their longer-serving colleagues.

In Nebraska and Louisiana, Republican candidates who say they oppose the health care law have had to defend their past positions on health care.

National Republicans settled on Rep. Bill Cassidy as their best shot to beat Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. But retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness notes that Cassidy, as a state senator and a physician in the state’s public hospital system, pushed health care policies similar to those in the Affordable Care Act.

“He has to defend his entire record, regardless of how he’s voted in Washington,” said Maness, a GOP candidate who hopes to unseat Landrieu with tea party support.

Midland University President Ben Sasse, one of several Republicans running in Nebraska for retiring Sen. Mike Johanns’ seat, says he opposes the health care law but has had to explain previous speeches and writings in which he was less absolute, at one point calling the act “an important first step” in overhauling American health care.

“This goes right to the bigger fight between the ideologues and the pragmatists,” said Republican strategist Todd Rehm of Georgia, who isn’t affiliated with any of the eight GOP candidates for Chambliss’ seat. Candidates who want to capture the divided Republican electorate, he said, “see that you can’t compromise on any of it. ... The moment you start to sound like you’re open to any compromise, you’ve sold out the ideologues.”

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at OnlineSentinel.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)