Conservative Group Mobilizes Against McConnell on Obamacare

Shane Goldmacher
National Journal

A conservative group is readying a statewide ad campaign that attacks Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for failing to back the push to defund President Obama's signature health care law, even if that means shutting down the government.

In a fundraising e-mail to supporters Friday with the subject line "McConnell Surrenders to Reid on Obamacare," the Senate Conservatives Fund accused McConnell of "waving the white flag." The group told its backers that it needs to raise $50,000 in the coming days for "a statewide media campaign in Kentucky to expose McConnell's record on this issue and to persuade him to lead the fight."

The group said it wants McConnell to "feel the heat." The move comes only weeks after a tea-party challenger, Matt Bevin, jumped into the race in an attempt to unseat the veteran senator from Kentucky in 2014.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, which was created by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who now runs the Heritage Foundation, has not made an endorsement in the McConnell race but has flirted with backing his challenger. The group spent millions on the 2012 elections.

In an interview, Executive Director Matt Hoskins said the drive to defund the health care law is of critical importance. And he accused McConnell, who has not backed the effort, of trying to thwart the work of others behind the scenes.

"This issue is a major test for Mitch McConnell, and he has failed conservatives time and time again," Hoskins said. "And if he fails them again on this issue—the most important issue—then I think a lot of people in Kentucky and across the country are going to want an alternative."

Leaders of the drive to defund Obamacare, by voting against any government funding bill that includes money for the law, include Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah,and Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as McConnell's fellow Kentuckian, Sen. Rand Paul, who says it's a good way to shift the debate. Many in Congress have said it is not a feasible tactic, given that Obama is in the White House, Democrats control the Senate, and the GOP would likely get the blame for a government shutdown. McConnell recently said that a shutdown would not stop the law.