Cornyn draws conservative attacks amid efforts to defund health care law

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by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 13, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 14 at 9:00 AM

AUSTIN -- A new ad popping up across the internet is targeting Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) over his stance in a debate among Republicans over how to dismantle funding for the Affordable Care Act.
 
"John Cornyn promised you he'd do everything he can to defund Obamacare," claims the ad paid for by conservative super PAC Freedomworks, which supported Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during his campaign. "But Cornyn broke his promise and abandoned brave conservatives like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul. Tell John Cornyn to keep his word and defund Obamacare now."
 
At issue is a pledge authored by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and signed by Cruz, Paul and ten other Senate Republicans, vowing to block a continuing resolution to fund the federal government unless the U.S. Congress votes to remove funding from the president's health care law as part of the measure. Cornyn is among the majority of Senate Republicans who have not signed the pledge, and one of many who have come under attack by some conservative activists.
 
Cornyn's office points out he voted against the Affordable Care Act and has consistently opposed it in the Senate, as well as signed on as cosponsor of legislation filed by Cruz to strip the law's funding. In a statement to KVUE, Cornyn's office explained if the federal government were shut down according to the pledge, most of the health care law would continue to receive funding.
 
"After reviewing Sen. Lee’s letter, Sen. Cornyn feels the best approach to defund Obamacare is Sen. Cruz’s bill to do so and Sen. Cornyn is an original cosponsor of this bill," Cornyn's office said. "Sen. Cornyn believes the most substantive approach to take is to fight to defund the entire law, which he has done, as opposed to just the small percentage of discretionary funding that Sen. Lee’s letter pertains to." 
 
The explanation hasn't satisfied everyone. By late July, the debate over how to oppose the Affordable Care Act, had become the latest front in a battle between party factions warring over how to best address issues from immigration reform to national security. While many party leaders cautioned a government shutdown could backfire on the GOP, Freedomworks targeted Cornyn in particular for "grassroots protests" across the state.
 
"People who agree with the ultimate objective will have different strategies on how to get there," said Peggy Venable with Americans for Prosperity of Texas. The conservative group has consistently given Cornyn "A" ratings as one of the state's most conservative politicians. 
 
"There is certainly some dissatisfaction with people who have been in office who seem to be willing to go along to get along, to do things like they've always been done," said Venable. "That's why I think so many in the tea party movement are cheering on folks like Senator Cruz who are willing to go in, stir things up and really challenge the status quo."
 
At the same time, Venable says she understands both approaches. A casualty of previous government shutdowns in Washington, she says she understands the more cautious approach taken by those such as Cornyn.
 
"Smart people will disagree," said Venable. "I think many Americans would not be so upset were government to shut down. Many Americans would say, 'Well it's about time, let's fight for this, this is worth staking our flag in the ground and fighting for.' Whereas others believe that a government shutdown would ultimately be harmful to the movement and to the mission."
 
"The tea party has further lost their grip on reality," said Phillip Martin with liberal advocacy group Progress Texas. "The idea of shutting down the government is extremely irresponsible. Many, many, many people in Texas count on basic government services every day and we need those to make sure that we're safe and secure. So a threat to shut down the government is an extreme threat." 
 
While Congress is on a month-long hiatus from Washington, Cruz has vowed to raise a "grassroots army" to pressure fellow lawmakers to vote to defund the health care law. The Senate Conservatives Fund has also unveiled a website listing members of the Senate who have signed or declined the pledge. Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to return September 9.

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