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NC Republican Congressional Delegation Splits On Strategy

photo of Congress
Lawrence Jackson,

North Carolina’s congressional delegation has been in the spotlight in recent weeks as Democrats and Republicans in Washington have argued over shutting down the government, the Affordable Care Act, and raising the debt ceiling. 

The idea for the shutdown came from Republican Representative Mark Meadows of the Eleventh District, whose aim was to try to dismantle Obamacare. But not all the Republican members of the North Carolina delegation agreed with the tactic.

When it came time to vote to reopen the federal government and avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt, North Carolina’s Democratic congressional delegation voted unanimously to do so, not surprisingly. But Republicans in the delegation were split all along on whether to shut down the government and raise the debt ceiling. Representative Howard Coble of Greensboro was one of four Republicans who voted for the measure this week.

"Like it or not, we live in a global economy. It was my fear that if in fact we did default, the market would respond erratically, and send shock signals around the world. I think when you’re talking about a default, I would much rather err on the side of caution," said Coble.

Some Republicans, including Senator Richard Burr, were highly critical of their colleagues in Congress who hoped to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government. In a statement issued earlier this week, Burr said he thought the tactic amounted to irresponsible governing. Burr wasn’t available for comment, but his colleague Howard Coble says there’s a disagreement in Republican ranks over ideology:

"Some people in our party would like to build a fence around our tent. I don’t want a fence around our tent. I want us to enlarge the tent. There oughta be enough room in our political tent to satisfy Senator Cruz of Texas and Governor Christie of New Jersey and they’re light years apart ideologically."

And that split could hurt Republicans in future elections, especially in swing states like North Carolina. Carter Wrenn is a Republican strategist and consultant in Raleigh.

"In the debate over shutting down the government, cut and spend, ending Obamacare, I think Obama just won the debate," said Wrenn.

He says he would have rather seen Republicans in Congress focus more on the debate over spending and less on Obamacare:

"I don’t think the Republicans were able to ever really get their points across. So I think that at this point it’s playing against Republicans because independents are leaning with Obama."

A poll released earlier this week by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling suggests the shutdown may hamper Republican efforts to regain control of the U.S. Senate. North Carolina was one of 6 states in the poll. A majority of North Carolinians surveyed said they opposed the shutdown. A majority also said they oppose the tea party.

Some members of the delegation think the shutdown served a purpose. Representative Walter Jones serves the state’s third Congressional district in eastern North Carolina.

"I was not in favor of that but I don’t know how else you wake up the American people. As bad as I thought it was to do that, we at least got national attention to the issue of spend, spend, spend, borrow, borrow borrow," said Jones.

Jones voted against ending the shutdown as a form of protest against raising the debt ceiling. When asked whether he thought it was a bad idea to connect the shutdown with Obamacare, he said yes. 

"I have been saying in my district if you want to do anything to change aspects of Obamacare what you’ve got to do is to elect a Republican Senate. Hold the House, have a Republican Senate, have a Democratic Senate, and I guarantee you things will happen," said Jones.

But that could be a challenge. As a swing state, North Carolina is gearing up for one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country next year- Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan’s seat. According to PPP’s poll, when respondents were informed that Hagan opposed a government shutdown, her lead over a generic Republican opponent went up.

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