North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates are taking a hard line on federal budget negotiations – a position that puts them at odds with the state’s lone GOP senator, Richard Burr.
Four Republican candidates said Monday they support efforts to defund the federal health care act, apparently even if those efforts lead to a government shutdown.
Their comments came the same day state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced he won’t join those running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.
A Senate vote is expected this week on a so-called continuing resolution that would keep the federal government running after Oct. 1. Last week the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that would fund the government but strip money to pay for the new federal health care program known as Obamacare.
Democratic U.S. Senate leaders say they won’t pass that bill, and President Barack Obama would veto it if they did.
N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius, who has raised more money than any GOP Senate candidate, called Obamacare “a mortal threat to our economy.”
“Republicans should do everything in our power to undo it,” he said in a statement. “That means using every tool available to us including this (budget) fight. ... This is not a complicated decision. Republicans should stand on our principles.”
Senate candidate Heather Grant, a Wilkesboro nurse, said any shutdown would not be the Republicans’ fault.
“If there’s a shutdown, that is on the president,” she said.
Mark Harris, a Charlotte pastor who plans to formally join the race Oct. 2, says he also supports effort to kill the federal health care law, much of which takes effect next week.
“I do think that this is an opportunity to stop Obamacare,” he said. “The solution doesn’t have to be to shut down the government. ... If the president himself chooses to shut down the government, that would be his decision, (and) that would be a shame.
“I do think there are ideas on the table that would avoid a shutdown and avoid funding Obamacare.”
Harris pointed to a proposal Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz made in an op-ed Monday for the Real Clear Politics website.
If the Senate strips the Obamacare provision from the House bill as expected, Cruz wrote, the House “should pass smaller (budget resolutions) one at a time, starting with the military. Dare (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid to keep voting to shut down the government.”
Candidate Greg Brannon, a Cary physician, said he supports Cruz and his fellow GOP senator, Mike Lee of Utah.
“As a senator, I would do exactly what Lee and Cruz are talking about,” Brannon said. “If there’s a shutdown, that would be on Reid and the president.”
The position taken by Cruz and Lee has divided Senate Republicans.
GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has called it “a flawed strategy.”
“We’re not about to shut the government down over the fact that we cannot ... tell the president that we’re not going to fund any portion of this, because we can’t do that,” he told CBS on Sunday.
“We do not have the ability to put a total stop and defund Obamacare. It would be nice if we did. Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is. And we do not have the political power to do this.”
Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has called the demand to defund the health care law in order to avoid a government shutdown a “dumb idea.”
“I said it was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard of,” he told the Huffington Post. “I still think it’s a dumb idea because you can’t defund Obamacare.”