Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint fired back at critics of the Tea Party-led effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Critics, including many in the Republican Party, have blasted Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzGeorgia campaigns keep up pressure ahead of runoff vote Week ahead in tech: Trump's antitrust pick heads before Senate Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's FDA pick MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMike LeeTrump takes aim at Obama monuments Trump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions MORE (R-Utah) for their push to defund the president’s healthcare law. Cruz and Lee led the fight, which provoked a government shutdown, and left many questioning their motives and tactics.
DeMint, who supported the senators' efforts, said "we will continue to fight" because it's necessary "to protect the American people from the harmful effects of this law."
Republicans have taken a hit in the polls because of the shutdown, but DeMint said the budget battle was a win for conservatives because it enabled the GOP to lock in sequester-level spending cuts and kept ObamaCare at the forefront of political debate.
“If the Republicans had not fought on ObamaCare, the compromise would have been over the budget sequester,” he said.
“Instead, they have retained the sequester and, for the past three months, ObamaCare and its failings have been front and center in the national debate. Its disastrous launch was spotlighted by our defund struggle, not overshadowed, as some contend. With a revived and engaged electorate, ObamaCare will now be the issue for the next few years.”
Heritage has been in the crosshairs of some in the GOP, who believe the conservative think tank is fanning the flames of dissent within the Republican Party by encouraging the Tea Party to buck the establishment.
On Thursday, Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchDisconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page Overnight Tech: Dem wants to see FCC chief's net neutrality plans | New agency panel on telecom diversity | Trump calls NASA astronaut Lighthizer expected to win committee approval to lead trade office MORE (R-Utah) said Heritage was in danger of “losing its clout” for taking a hard line in efforts to repeal the law.
“Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual, conservative ideas,” Hatch said.
"There's a real question on the minds of many Republicans now — I am not just speaking for myself, for a lot of people: Is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn't amount to anything anymore?' ” he continued. “I hope not. I'm going to try to help it survive and do well. Right now, I think it's in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C."
In DeMint’s op-ed, he laid out the conservative argument for why the fight against ObamaCare was as important as ever. He said “Americans are getting notices in their mailboxes every day” about rising premiums. He said “the cost of ObamaCare’s new entitlements” would lead to a debt crisis and argued that the law in its current form “will lead to a single-payer healthcare system.”
DeMint also dismissed the notion that ObamaCare was a settled issue with voters, arguing that it wasn’t “the central fight” in the 2012 election.
“ObamaCare was not the central fight in 2012, much to the disappointment of conservatives,” he wrote. “Republicans hoped that negative economic news would sweep them to victory, and exit polls confirmed that the economy, not healthcare, was the top issue. The best thing is to declare last year's election a mistrial on ObamaCare.”