ST. CHARLES, Mo.
Republicans’ divisions over the best tactics to use in Washington were apparent Saturday as more than a thousand conservatives gathered in the Midwest for a daylong pep rally with politicians and activists.
The regional Conservative Political Action Conference featured fiery rhetoric against taxes and the federal Affordable Care Act, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama. It also included calls for conservatives to unite instead of fight among themselves.
The event was headlined by a pair of former presidential candidates — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. But many of the U.S. senators and representatives who had been scheduled to speak canceled at the last moment. Convention organizers said the lawmakers stayed in Washington, where they face a midnight Monday deadline to pass a funding plan to avert a partial government shutdown.
The lone U.S. senator to show up at the event sponsored by the American Conservative Union was Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. He received a standing ovation for aiding Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in this past week’s unsuccessful filibuster against funding for the federal health care law.
“We must assert our rights to live in a land that’s free from an oppressive, distant national government,” Lee said. But he later told the conservative crowd, “We need to remember there’s more that unites us than divides us.”
Louisiana state Sen. Elbert Guillory, who switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in May, referred to Obama as “the head termite” who is “destroying the fiscal integrity of this nation.”
American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas opened the event by praising Cruz’s filibuster and said conservatives are done “playing nice.”
“Conservatives are angry, and rightly so,” Cardenas said. “We’re witnessing the first generation of Americans who instead of asking what they can do for America are far too eager to meekly accept liberal blandishments of what America can do for them.”