Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell worked privately Monday on a possible deal to end the government shutdown and avert a default on the country's debt, both men publicly expressed hope that a compromise may be in sight.
“I share [Reid's] optimism that a result will be reached that will be acceptable to both sides,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.
Less optimistic, however, is the Senate Conservatives Fund, the powerful outside group that recently called McConnell a "turncoat" for not standing with conservatives in their efforts to defund Obamacare. Now that McConnell, R-Ky., is in talks with Democrats to end the government shutdown that resulted from that Obamacare fight, the fund's executive director, Matt Hoskins, charged that McConnell was "negotiating the Republican surrender."
"McConnell has worked to sabotage the effort to defund Obamacare since the beginning," Hoskins said.
Conservative groups and lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have chided fellow Republicans throughout the budget fight, including their own congressional leaders who didn't want risk a government shutdown or default in a fight over Obamacare that they said wouldn't have stopped the law's implementation anyway.
Conservatives' goal of defunding or seriously weakening the Affordable Care Act may now have been dropped completely from an emerging framework of a spending and debt deal engineered by Reid and McConnell — and that has conservatives fuming.
"Now Mitch McConnell is working with Harry Reid on a plan to fund Obamacare and raise the debt limit," Hoskins said. "Not only will his plan force Americans to pay for a law they oppose, it will force them borrow more money to do it."
Hoskins's attack on McConnell isn't the first. The Senate Conservatives Fund spent money earlier this year on an anti-McConnell television ad in Kentucky, where McConnell faces a conservative challenger in the 2014 Republican primary.
The Senate Conservatives Fund has also targeted a host of other Senate Republicans who share McConnell's views, including Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The group's willingness to attack Republican incumbents has enraged moderate Republican senators, some of who launched a vocal protest at a recent Senate GOP lunch.
But the fund has not relented in the face of intraparty criticism, and Hoskins saved some of his choicest attacks for McConnell.
"There’s still a chance that McConnell will realize his mistake and insist that Obamacare be defunded, but it's very unlikely," Hoskins said. "He would rather concede to the Democrats than fight them. He would rather fund Obamacare than admit conservatives were right."