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Moderate House Republicans Vow Push Back Against Conservatives

Monday, 04 Nov 2013 12:40 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Republican moderates in the House are vowing to push back against the more conservative members of the party in the next round of budget negotiations.

Many say they are angry about the damage done to the party's image by the 16-day government shutdown that took effect as a result of tea party conservatives' campaign to link the federal budget to Obamacare, reports Politico.

"I can assure you that the next time around, people are going to have their eyes wide open. I believe there will be a lot of folks speaking up. Aggressively, in fact," Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, who represents a moderate district in eastern Pennsylvania, told the publication.

"The time has come for members who believe the gridlock is absolutely unacceptable to speak with a bolder voice, and to put clarity on this issue and advance specific alternatives as well," added GOP Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia.

New York GOP Rep. Peter King went so far as to call on moderate congressional Republicans to target conservative Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who led the crusade to stop the healthcare law and who has reportedly not ruled out another shutdown over the issue.

"Ted Cruz forced the Republican Party to its lowest levels ever and in that period, made Obamacare more popular," he told Politico.

"We have to be more outspoken upfront," he said, noting that House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor "were all the ones being targeted by these guys and . . . made it harder for them to push back."

Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan, who also represents a moderate district in Pennsylvania, said moderates are anxious to prevent another debacle.

"We're probably going to do more to talk to ourselves to try to be a little bit more unified and to put some thought into where we think we ought to be," he told Politico, adding: "I think people appreciate that when you eliminate yourself from negotiations, you're operating from a position of weakness."

Meehan was reportedly one of the first House Republicans to urge his fellow lawmakers not to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare.

The next test of whether the moderates, many of whom are up for reelection in 2014, can in fact counterbalance their more conservative colleagues will come when the temporary budget agreement expires in mid-January.

Some Republicans point to recent polls showing record low approval ratings for the GOP as a sign that the moderates in the party have to regroup.

"That's certainly a clarion call for the Republicans, for my party, to do a lot of self-examination," Maine Sen. Susan Collins told PBS' Judy Woodruff last week.

"I think it's worth noting that the president's approval ratings are down as well. The Democratic Party's is down. But you're certainly right that no one is lower than the Republicans right now. This reflects a loss of confidence in the ability of Washington as a whole to govern responsibly," Collins said.

"And I believe that the shutdown ... of government for 16 days, the nearness that we came to defaulting on our debts, and the lack of a long-term fiscal plan to deal with our $17 trillion debt, are the reasons why."

Related stories:
Christie Sets Out to Prove GOP Can Build New Base
Tea Party Undeterred, Targets Moderate GOP for Ouster

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