September 15, 2013

Tea Party activists sour on Republican leaders

The push to defund President Obama's health care law is causing a rift among conservatives.

By BILL BARROW/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

A man holds up a placard during a Tea Party rally to "Audit the IRS" in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington
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Tea party activists called on the government to audit the IRS in June, but many conservatives have turned their attention to an attempt to defund President Obama’s signature health care law. The effort is fracturing the Republican Party.



KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The head of the Republican National Committee bemoaned the party's presidential primary system as "a total disaster" Saturday while attempting to rally support from Midwesterners for a significant clamp-down on intraparty squabbles.

Party Chairman Reince Priebus defended plans to limit the number of debates and shorten the campaign season for the 2016 presidential primaries by severely penalizing states and candidates that stray from the national party's guidelines.

Priebus spoke to hundreds of party members gathered at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference in Kansas City, which is among several sites seeking to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.

"Our primary system is a total disaster," Priebus said to the applause of fellow Republicans. In future elections, "we're not going to have a year-round slicing and dicing festival among our candidates."

Priebus proposed to hold no more than eight GOP primary debates, with the party picking the host partners and moderators. Candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates should be penalized 30 percent of their delegates, Priebus said.

He said the national convention will be moved up from late August to early July or late June, giving GOP candidates less time to fight among themselves and more time to focus on fundraising and campaigning for the general election.

Among the other speakers at the Midwestern GOP conference was former presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Santorum said he supports moving up the Republican National Convention but not limiting debates.

"I don't know how you put a cap on free speech, that's pretty much what you're suggesting," Santorum said. "I'm not particularly excited about the RNC sanction anyway. I don't see anything out of the RNC that makes me excited that they're going to do something to position themselves to put the most effective leader forward."

-- The Associated Press

At one stop in the state, Kremer called out Ellmers. "I haven't given up on the congresswoman," she said.

Another conservative group, FreedomWorks, has sponsored dozens of town hall meetings featuring cardboard cutouts of House members and senators who declined invitations to attend the "Defund Obamacare" sessions.


Several groups joined forces for a defunding rally at Boehner's Ohio district headquarters. The conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth has already endorsed a handful of primary challengers, including against Boehner allies.

A political action committee called the Senate Conservatives Fund spent $340,000 on an ad criticizing McConnell. It's set to run on cable and networks in Kentucky until Tuesday.

"Mitch McConnell is the key to stopping Obamacare," an off-camera announcer states. "Republicans in the Senate have the power to defeat funding for Obamacare, but they won't use it if their leader tells them to surrender." McConnell, the announcer continues, "wants Kentucky voters to re-elect him because he's the Republican leader, but what good is that title if he won't use it to help Kentucky families?"

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the senator stands by his position. "He's been very vocal back home over the need to repeal, dismantle, defund the law -- you name it, he's for it," Stewart said.

While Stewart can tick off the number of speeches McConnell gave before the law's passage and the number of Kentucky town halls he's held to hammer the law, it, he also acknowledges political realities facing the movement to stop Obama's health care overhaul. "The question," he said, "is how to do it."

In Atlanta, Bozell said that argument amounts to "trying to have it both ways."

"They'll vote to repeal it," he said. "But they won't stand up and do everything they can to stop it."


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