WASHINGTON -- It was Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican freshman from North Carolina, who rallied GOP conservatives in the House by pushing them to tie defunding of the health care law to passage of a federal spending bill.Republican Reps. Renee Ellmers of Dunn and Richard Hudson of Concord are urging their GOP colleagues to remain unified in their demand for concessions.
Frustration among mainstream Republicans is growing, however, as the deadline to lift the debt ceiling draws closer. And pressure on House Speaker John Boehner to end the impasse is intensifying.
But the North Carolina Republicans, who helped pick this fight, insist that it should continue.
Meadows took to the House floor Friday morning and delivered an emotional account of a decision by an innkeeper in his Western North Carolina mountain district to defy a government order to close his private hotel on federal land along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Meadows said the owner, Bruce O’Connell, called him Friday morning about the shutdown. O’Connell commended Meadows and the Republicans for fighting for their futures, according to the congressman.
“We must stand together and fight. We must make sure our voices are heard,” Meadows said.
The partial government shutdown, which began Tuesday, has no apparent end in sight.
Led by the conservative wing of the party, House Republicans have insisted on repeal or delay of the 2010 health care law in return for passing a bill to fund the government.
Republicans proposed to appropriate money to restart certain programs, but congressional Democrats have rejected that approach.
There have been some chinks in the Republican armor. Party members from more moderate districts like Reps. Bill Young of Florida, Peter King and Michael Grimm of New York, Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania and Devin Nunes of California have indicated support for funding the government without conditions on the health care law.
Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord acknowledged that some House Republicans have begun to waver. But he said members need to stand together. If they hold strong, Hudson said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will be compelled to come to the table and negotiate.
“At some point, the American people will speak loud enough and there are going to be Democrats in the Senate who are going to go to Reid and say, ‘Look we got to sit down and talk.’ ”
Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican, wondered why congressional Democrats and the White House approved of a one-year delay on implementing the health care law for businesses but not individuals. But, he said, the debate goes beyond Obamacare; it’s about tackling out-of-control growth and spending.
“This is not a game,” he said. “This is about meaningful, effective policies.”
Reid, for his part, says he won’t negotiate with bullies. And, so far, it’s been Senate Republicans who have been the loudest voices in calling on members of their own party to back down. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., argued Friday morning from the floor that trying to leverage government funding to dismantle Obamacare is an “ill-conceived strategy.”
North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr was one of the first Republicans to oppose the defunding strategy. He told reporters, “I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.”
Burr, who opposes the health care law, said in a Senate speech last week that the strategy of closing the government would not kill the law. He said the only way to eliminate a law on the books is to pass a bill that reverses it and get the president to sign it.
Rep. George Holding, a Republican from Raleigh, defended the strategy of tying the spending bill to efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and said he still hoped the Senate would consider it. He also said that the White House and congressional Democrats must make concessions on spending in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. The government is expected to exhaust its borrowing authority on Oct. 17.
Increasing the limit allows the government to pay its bills, but does not authorize more spending. The Treasury Department warned that a failure to pay the bills could send the economy tumbling.
Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican from Greensboro, said in a statement that he hoped that "cooler heads will prevail" before the deadline to increase the debt limit.
"I do not want our country to default on its financial obligations," Coble said. He added that in order to avoid default, Democrats and Republicans would have to negotiate.
Ellmers also insisted on negotiations.
"I have been fighting against this shutdown every day and will continue to work to ensure that President Obama and Sen. Reid come to the negotiating table," Ellmers said in a statement. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, accused House Republicans of playing political games “with the most basic function of keeping the government running” and said the shutdown is reckless and irresponsible. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton was one of only two Democrats who joined House Republicans in voting to defund Obamacare last month. But he said this week that the Republican House leadership should let members vote on a spending bill with no strings attached so that the government can reopen.
Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Chapel Hill, speaking on the House floor Friday, rejected the approach of voting for only parts of the government. Price said there were enough Republicans who supported the Senate-passed no-conditions bill that it could pass “in one fell swoop this afternoon” if the Republican leadership allowed a vote.