U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, a potential Republican presidential candidate, urged a gathering of Christian conservatives to work to prevent their state governments from implementing the health-care overhaul President Barack Obama pushed into law last year.
Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, also assured the Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in Washington today that the federal measure would be repealed. “We will win this fight,” she said to a standing ovation. “Take it to the bank. Cash the check. It will be done.”
The law, whose constitutionality has been challenged in several lawsuits, mandates that most Americans have health insurance and bars insurers from denying coverage to people who are sick.
Bachmann touched on other issues of particular interest to her audience, including abortion and marriage. She cited Census Bureau statistics reporting that less than half of U.S. households are now headed by a married couple of one man and one woman. “Marriage is under siege like no other time in history,” she said.
Roe v. Wade
Another potential Republican candidate, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, told the group he signed every anti- abortion bill that reached his desk, including one that would outlaw abortion in the state if the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision were overturned. He noted that he and his wife adopted two children from overseas, and he thanked their birth mothers for allowing them to be raised by his family.
Huntsman, who earlier this year resigned as U.S. ambassador to China under Obama to explore challenging him, said Republicans should focus on social issues along with the economy and the federal deficit in the 2012 campaign.
“There is something more essential than politics, and that’s life,” he said. “If Republicans should ignore life, the deficit we will face is one that will be much more destructive.”
Bachmann received one of the warmest receptions at the conference’s morning session, which included remarks from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Bachmann was greeted by a standing ovation and her speech was interrupted frequently by applause. The response to Huntsman was more subdued, with sustained applause only when he was introduced and at the end of his speech.
Bachmann and Huntsman were to be followed by other Republican presidential prospects -- announced and potential -- during the two-day conference at a Washington hotel. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Representative Ron Paul of Texas are to speak later today, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain are on tomorrow’s agenda.
Evangelical Christians are an important part of the Republican voting bloc. They accounted for 23 percent of the electorate in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, and 73 percent of their votes went to Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
The conference is the second event featuring Republican presidential contenders staged by the Duluth, Georgia-based organization. It sponsored a forum in Des Moines in March and plans one in Florida in September.
The head of the group, Ralph Reed, ran the Christian Coalition of America, which was founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, from 1989 to 1997.
Like the Christian Coalition, the Faith and Freedom Coalition plans to prepare voting guides for churches and civic organizations to hand out before Election Day. The website also includes lawmakers’ voting records on issues of importance to the group.
It opposed Obama’s economic stimulus package, health-care overhaul, and legislation to regulate the financial industry, which was blamed for the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression. It supported Republican efforts to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood and backed an amendment that sought to overturn a vote by the District of Columbia Council to allow same-sex marriage; both efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
The coalition, founded in 2009, counted 58.8 million voter contacts last year, through phone calls, direct mail, e-mail, text messaging and door-to-door campaigning. Its goal is 120 million contacts in 2012.
“This is the Christian Coalition on steroids,” executive director Gary Marx said. “Our sweet spot is bringing together the value voters and Tea Party into a powerful grassroots synergy.”
Reed unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in Georgia in 2006. In that race, he was hurt by his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who later was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to charges of mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to corrupt public officials.
Reed’s involvement in the scandal resulted from Abramoff pressuring his casino-owning Indian tribal clients to hire Reed to run anti-gambling campaigns designed to block competitors, a 2006 Senate Indian Affairs Committee report said.
Reed received more than $4 million from Abramoff’s clients, laundered through tax-exempt groups including Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform to hide the fact that the money came from gambling interests, according to the Indian Affairs Committee and a report by Senate Finance Committee Democrats.
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