Republicans are remaining united amid attacks from Democrats over the first federal government shutdown in nearly two decades because "there are enough conservatives that won't let them stray," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola told Newsmax on Friday.
"It's a good sign," Chocola said in an exclusive interview. "It's an indication that the nature of the Republican Conference has changed.
"There are more conservatives, more champions of economic freedom that are willing to stand up and fight. They understand that the future of our country is at stake, that people believe that the government is too big, too much in debt, and too intrusive — and they're willing to try to do something about it, even if it's controversial and messy at times.
"The go-along, get-along nature of Congress in the past has led to $17 trillion in debt. That can't continue," Chocola said. "The culture of the House and the culture of the Senate have changed. It's not always a pretty thing — but it's unfortunately a necessary thing to get our country back on track."
GOP legislators in both chambers have been repeatedly rebuked by President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders since the government's partial shutdown took effect Tuesday. As many as 800,000 federal employees have been affected, though some have not been furloughed to provide essential services.
The shutdown is the first for the government in 17 years. The last time was for a total of 28 days, intermittently between November 1995 and January 1996, costing American taxpayers $1.4 billion.
The Club for Growth is a fiscally conservative political organization that supports an agenda of low taxes and limited government. Chocola has been president of the Washington-based group since 2009. Before that, he served two terms as a GOP representative from Indiana.
"It's important that the Republicans take a stand, and they have," Chocola told Newsmax. "Their latest proposal was exceedingly reasonable.
"Despite the mainstream media's narrative that this is all the Republicans' fault — that, how dare we ask the Senate to do something, how dare we challenge or question a president, and that we should simply obey — the longer it goes on, the Republicans will actually start looking like the reasonable ones in this debacle," he said.
"No one will escape total blame, but I don't think the American people will think they're unreasonable in their request because a majority of Americans don't support Obamacare," Chocola said.
Obama on Friday
charged again that the government's closing was a "Republican shutdown" — and The Wall Street Journal
quoted an unnamed administration official as saying: "We are winning ... It doesn't really matter to us" how long the shutdown lasts "because what matters is the end result."
"It says everything you need to know about the Democrats' view of this: It's a game," Chocola said of the Journal quote. "They are the only ones that really want government shut down because they think they benefit from that.
"Ultimately, this is about policy, and it’s about the future of our country. Obamacare is bad policy. It's bad for Americans as individuals. It's been opposed now by the unions. The IRS has destroyed any trust in their ability to implement or enforce it. The president has said it's not ready.
"It’s a very cynical political view — but, unfortunately, it is their view," Chocola said.
He praised Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Rand Paul of Kentucky for being among those GOP legislators leading the fight to defund or delay Obamacare.
"When people call them extreme, they're simply doing what Republicans said they would do, what they were elected to do," Chocola told Newsmax. "It's unfortunate if it's extreme to do in office what you promised to do as a candidate."
"We just expect people to do what they said they would do, and we'd be better off as a country if more people took their promises seriously and stood their ground and fought when it came time to stand up for the principles they espoused," he said.
Chocola also praised Cruz for speaking more than 21 hours on the Senate floor against Obamacare last month before the upper chamber stripped all language regarding the healthcare plan from the bill they later approved.
"What people see in Sen. Cruz is a refreshing example of somebody who is going to stand on principle. Even if he is criticized by all sides, he's fighting for something that he believes in — and, by the way, that a lot of Americans believe in."
"It's an example of taking the risk of leadership," Chocola continued. "Part of what people are frustrated with about Washington is that people fight with each other, but nobody's standing up and leading.
"He is willing to poke his head up and say, 'This is what I believe in and I am willing to stand firmly for that belief,' and that is a characteristic that people don't see enough of in Washington.
"You can agree or disagree with the particular issue, but people admire it when somebody believes something, and they're willing to stand up and fight for that belief."
The freshman Texas senator has also come under fire from fellow Republicans
for lacking "an exit strategy" now that the government has been closed over the stalemate regarding the funding of Obamacare.
"So, who had a better plan?" Chocola asked. "Where was the Republican leadership in laying out a clearly articulated, appealing plan to avoid this situation? We've known that we're going to have a [continuing resolution] for months. We've known that we're going to have a debt fight for months.
"If they're going to leave a vacuum open, somebody's got to fill it, and Ted Cruz filled it, as well as others. If people don't like the path they're on, why aren't they offering a more appealing alternative that can lead to better success?"
But Chocola was harsh on Republicans who have recently called for supporting the "clean" Senate bill to reopen the government.
"You might as well just vote for whatever the Democrats and the president want from here on out," he said. "This is an American democracy.
"Since when has it been the rule that just because the Senate isn't going to pass something, that you should never ask them to pass something, or at least ask them to compromise and negotiate with you? It's never worked that way, and it never should work that way."
Chocola said the GOP's solidarity has put House Speaker John Boehner in a tenuous position, acknowledging that "he's got a tough job."
"We view our job as, if we can support enough fiscal conservatives, they'll elect one of their own to lead them — but anyone who is Speaker of the House has a tough job. But they ask for the job, so they need to accept the responsibility."
But Boehner was just as critical Friday of the Democrats' unwillingness to negotiate on the Obamacare issue to try to end the shutdown as Obama was of Republican insistence on delaying the healthcare plan's individual mandate for a year.
"This isn't some damn game,"
the Ohio Republican told reporters. "The American people don't want their government shut down and neither do I."
"Everybody's frustrated," Chocola told Newsmax. "This is dysfunction, clearly, at every level. It's not supposed to work this way.
"You've got a Senate that hasn't passed a budget in four or five years. You've got very few appropriations bills passed in the House — I think none passed in the Senate.
"They can't do their work and function in the normal course of business, so you run into these manufactured crises they have inflicted upon themselves because they have created it themselves — and Americans suffer the consequences. No one wants the government shut down," Chocola said.
"Everybody's frustrated," he added. "Everybody's exasperated, but that's not an excuse not to do the hard work to fix it."
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