The federal government's shutdown doesn't pose much of a political threat for House Republicans from safe, right-leaning districts, but GOP moderates who believe they face a serious voter backlash have formed a coalition intended to end the standoff.
Republican Reps. Peter King of New York, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Devin Nunes of California are among a dozen or so House Republicans who have been openly critical of their conservative counterparts' efforts to block a government funding bill unless it limits or delays Obamacare.
Senate Republicans -- including John McCain of Arizona, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- also oppose the House strategy, which they blame on two GOP colleagues, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, a pair of newcomers who bucked party leaders in pushing for defunding Obamacare even if it led to a government shutdown.
"We are fully implementing the strategy that Ted Cruz laid out," Nunes told the Washington Examiner. "They got a handful of Republicans, then it became a larger group of Republicans. I thought it was crazy from the beginning."
Moderate Republicans are particularly angry that conservative lawmakers teamed with outside advocacy groups to pressure them to support a spending bill that would defund the health care law even though they knew it would be rejected by the Democratic Senate and President Obama.
"When you go on television and you tell the base and you tell your constituency over and over again that we are going to get rid of Obamacare and all we have to do is hold tight on this [spending] bill, the people begin to believe there is a plan out there to get rid of Obamacare," said Nunes, whose district is 45 percent Hispanic. "The problem is, it was never a plan. It was only a scheme to raise people's profiles and to raise money."
Nunes and other moderate Republicans say dozens of GOP lawmakers want the shutdown to end and would support a government spending bill that funds the health care law.
Most moderate Republicans have hesitated to criticize conservatives publicly. They fear that outside groups like the Tea Party, Heritage Action and FreedomWorks will find conservative challengers to run against them in Republican primaries next year.
"They've made it so that you have to vote to defund Obamacare if you are a real Republican," King told the Washington Examiner. His district has been carried by the Democratic presidential nominee since 1996.
FreedomWorks President Mark Kibbe told the Examiner that Republicans need to stop fearing the next election, which he believes has prevented the party from pushing for legislative victories.
"I have been in this town long enough to watch this endless cycle of 'let's not do anything until after the next election,'" Kibbe said. "You never actually get to policy change. You have a midterm election with IRS abuses and a health care plan that no one likes. This is the time for Republicans to be bold."
Susan Ferrechio is the Examiner's chief congressional correspondent.
(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
Original headline: GOP moderates fear voter backlash over government shutdown
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