House's two Kings personify GOP split
WASHINGTON -- Two Republican Kings -- who, for different reasons, voted against party leaders' last failed attempt to prevent President Barack Obama's health care overhaul from taking root -- personify a growing split within the GOP over both ideology and strategy.
"It's a temporary alliance," New York's Peter King said upon finding himself teamed with 11 other House Republicans in voting against Speaker John Boehner's bill that conditioned keeping the government open on delaying the "Obamacare" law's requirement that millions of people start buying health insurance.
Among those 11 was Iowa's Steve King, who voted no on Boehner's bill for the opposite reason: It didn't do enough to stop the 3-year-old health care law in its tracks. Steve King and his Tea Party allies want Obamacare repealed completely.
The two Kings, who are not related, represent opposite poles in Republican politics. Steve King is a Tea Party favorite and a leading advocate of deporting an estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas. Peter King calls himself a "blue-collar conservative" and is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 as an antidote to the tea partyers and their ascendancy within the GOP.
In addition to the 12 Republicans who bucked Boehner, nine Democrats so far have broken with Obama and their party's leaders and sided with the GOP in an epic budget battle that has led to the first government shutdown in nearly two decades.
Four of those Democrats -- Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Jim Matheson of Utah, Ron Barber of Arizona and John Barrow of Georgia -- represent districts won by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The others -- New Yorkers Dan Maffei and Sean Maloney, Steven Horsford of Nevada, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Paul Ruiz of California -- narrowly won election last November. All are on the GOP's list of most vulnerable Democrats in 2014.
"A lot of us are fed up with posturing," said McIntyre.
"Members of Congress should not ask the government to pay for their health care while Americans at home suffer during government shutdown," said Sinema, a freshman who won only 49 percent of her district's vote last year.
The House vote provided the first glimpse of unity fraying for both parties. For Republicans, the defections were notable for the reasons behind them.
Only Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania joined Peter King in suggesting Republicans should pass the temporary spending bill and move the GOP's war against "Obamacare" to another battlefield. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., joined them Tuesday in expressing a willingness to throw in the towel.
Peter King on Wednesday accused Tea Party-backed conservatives of trying to "hijack the party" and said he believes growing numbers of House Republicans are getting "tired of this policy." He said in a MSNBC interview that a considerable number of GOP lawmakers are growing weary of "the Ted Cruz wing of the party."
Cruz, a Republican Texas senator, staged a more than 21-hour talkathon in the Senate last week in an effort to thwart the new health care plan.
Rigell said the government shutdown is hurting his district, "including the military and the hardworking men and women who have been furloughed due to the defense sequester."
Most of the other nine Republicans siding against Boehner on the Monday night vote were, like Steve King, staunch conservatives who viewed anything less than defunding the health care law as a defeat. The biggest name among them was Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, an early Tea Party leader who for a brief period sought the GOP presidential nomination but has decided against running for re-election to the House.
Other Republicans voting their dissent were Reps. Tom Massie of Kentucky, Mike Rogers of Alabama, Rick Crawford of Arkansas, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey of Georgia, and Texans Joe Barton, Louie Gohmert and Kay Granger.