WASHINGTON -- Republicans in Congress are divided over whether to use the threat of a government shutdown to defund the presidents health care law, and the split is nowhere more evident than in North Carolina.
Some Republicans who have always opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and voted against it _ Sen. Richard Burr and Reps. Renee Ellmers of Dunn, Robert Pittenger of Charlotte and Patrick McHenry of western North Carolina_ oppose the shutdown threat.
Meanwhile, freshman Rep. Mark Meadows, whose district is west and north of McHenrys, led a group of 80 House Republicans who wrote to the Republican House leadership last week, urging them to allow a vote to defund the law popularly known as Obamacare in a short-term spending measure designed to keep the government running once the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Besides Meadows, four other North Carolina congressmen signed it: Howard Coble, Richard Hudson, George Holding and Walter Jones.
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia havent given any sign of support for the shutdown strategy. Officially, their offices say no decision has been made.
Boehner and Cantor told Republican House members that they want to pass a short-term spending bill that locks in the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration and keeps the government open, said a person familiar with the call. The leaders also believe that they will have more leverage with the debt-limit vote expected in mid-October, the person said, adding that Boehner said that historically "nothing big has ever been enacted in divided government as part of a CR, or continuing resolution, but that debt limits have been used "to do some very big things."
Tea party activists are pushing hard for what they see as a tougher approach. The issue has flared during the August recess at town hall meetings, where conservative citizens have demanded support for the defunding strategy.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on CNNs State of the Union on Sunday that the fight will heat up in the month of September.
I believe if we see a grass-roots tsunami that is going to cause Republicans and Democrats to listen to the people, Cruz said, adding hed do all he could to make that happen.
At the same time, the partys far right is on the attack against fellow Republicans.
Senate Conservative Fund, a political action committee, took out ads against Burr and other southern Republican senators who oppose the health care law but also oppose risking a shutdown.
Burr was quoted as saying that an attempt to block funding to implement the law was the dumbest idea Ive ever heard.
Its time for Richard Burr to start listening to us, not his friends in Washington, the Senate Conservative Fund ad says. The group also targeted Sens. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
The ads dont mention that Burr and the others want to do away with Obamacare.
All of the Republican senators voted against the law when it came to a vote in the Senate on Dec. 24, 2009. Shutdown supporters such as Cruz and Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida hadnt been elected yet at the time.
The letter from Meadows and the others calls for providing no money to implement Obamacare in any appropriations bills, including any continuing resolution to keep the government running after the end of the fiscal year. Since Democrats hold a majority in the Senate and President Barack Obama would defend his signature health law, the plan would risk an impasse that would pull the plug on funds for the federal government, resulting in a shutdown.