WILMINGTON, Del. — Hundreds of conservatives rallied Thursday evening in Wilmington, Del., at the final stop in Heritage Action for America’s "Defund Obamacare" bus tour.
An overflow crowd listened to Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s father Raphael Cruz discuss the law and how they can oppose it.
Needham and DeMint called on the attendees to support Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) in their effort to defund Obamacare fully through the upcoming continuing resolution, which will fund the government for the next fiscal year. Cruz and Lee want to attach a provision to the resolution preventing the administration from spending any money on the law and stripping any existing appropriations from it.
Cruz and Lee are leading a vocal minority of the Republican Party in an ongoing debate over how best to oppose the president’s signature domestic policy achievement.
"We don’t have time to wait," Needham told the crowd. "The time to fight is now."
Needham attacked the "no we can’t caucus" and encouraged the crowd to say "yes we can" to questions about stopping Obamacare.
"If we demand change from Washington, we will get it," he said.
DeMint, who resigned from the Senate at the beginning of the year to head the conservative think tank, talked broadly about American society and Obamacare’s place in it to an enthralled crowd.
"I cannot think of anything that is less American than national, government-run healthcare," he said.
He noted the large crowd and long lines to get into the event at the beginning of his remarks.
"We did that on purpose. We wanted to simulate what it’s going to be like in a doctor’s office," he said to laughter. "Welcome to national, government-run health care. This is what it’s going to be like."
Many of the president’s promises about Obamacare’s effects—that it would lower costs while people satisfied with their insurance would be able to keep it—have not been kept, DeMint said. The law will have several negative effects, such as a shortage of doctors, he said.
"Together, we can defund this," he told the crowd.
Ted Cruz’s father Raphael, who emigrated from Cuba over 50 years ago, opened the event with a prayer and closed the rally with a call to action.
"I know what it is from personal experience to feel the heavy boot of a centralized government," he told the crowd. He asked the crowd to sign Heritage Action’s petition to defund Obamacare and encouraged them to become "sentinels," Heritage Action’s term for community organizer.
When Needham mentioned the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and the No Child Left Behind education reform act, the crowd booed loudly. However, only a few expressed any displeasure at the mention of Medicare Part D, which gives seniors access to prescription drugs at a cheaper cost.
The rally comes as Republicans are in the midst of a public debate over how to oppose Obamacare.
A group of conservative activists sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio) earlier this month arguing the GOP should push for a delay in the law rather than a full defunding.
One of the signers, president of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist, argued recently that Democrats, who control the Senate and White House, are more likely to compromise on a delay than a full-scale defunding.
Some Republican leaders, such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) have said that an absolute refusal to fund Obamacare, leading to a government shutdown, could lead to Democrats retaking control of the House of Representatives because American voters do not support shutting down the government.
Needham dismissed these arguments in an interview before the rally. Public support for a government shutdown depends on the poll’s phrasing, he contended.
"The only way to delay the law is to defund it," Needham said.
Many of the attendees expressed support for defunding the law.
"We’ve got to just stop it now before it goes any further," said Geri Nagles, a Tea Party activist from New Jersey. "It’s like a virus."
"There could be a better way, but right now I don’t know what a better way is," said Tom Clancy, another rally attendee. Clancy expressed skepticism at a plan to delay the law, although he conceded that he needed to look more deeply into it.
Distrust of the law and the president whose name it bears permeated the crowd.
"It’s going to cost a lot of money. It’s going to put older people like me in a situation where they’re not going to want to take care of us," said Bernadette. "Sarah Palin was right when she talked about death panels."
"And I wish I could defund Obama," she quipped. "He needs to go, big time."
"I think Obamacare is the worst bill ever to hit this country, and I think it’s absolutely going to ruin this country," said Mike.