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Utah's Sen. Lee takes risk in joining 'filibuster'

By Richard Piatt and Lisa Riley Roche | Posted - Sep 25th, 2013 @ 7:54pm


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WASHINGTON &#8212 Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's 21-hour speech on the senate floor came with big support from Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

Cruz's marathon speech was designed to gain support for a measure to defund the Affordable Care Act. Neither Cruz nor Lee had the official support of their own Republican party.

Cruz had Lee by his side literally and figuratively during his "filibuster."

"This was all about elevating the debate in the public and giving the American people a chance to speak," Cruz said.

Tying Obamacare to the debt ceiling debate was a politically risky event, but Cruz and Lee said they broke from powerful Republicans, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, to take that stand.

Lee said he thought it was worth it.

"I like it better when we have unanimity within our party. We don't in this circumstance," Lee said.

Lee said he's getting positive feedback from more than 25,000 constituents and very little negative feedback.

However, the Hinckley Institute of Politics' Tim Chambless said Lee isn't going out on a limb on this &#8212 he's going out on a twig.

"It's a very myopic effort by very junior members who have no power except a vote," Chambless said.

Chambless said Lee and Cruz are exploiting the public's fear of the unknown when it comes to Obamacare, which may or may not work.

"What they are really doing is weakening the Republican Party, so the Republican Party is going to be damaged in 2014," Chambless said.

But Lee said he stands by his actions.

"I would ask them why exactly is it foolish on something as important as a piece of legislation that keeps the federal government operating while also protecting the American people from the harmful effects of a law," he said.

He said he does not believe that strategy will result in a government shutdown, despite the concerns raised by Hatch and others that Republicans will be blamed if a budget bill is not passed in time.

"I don't believe we will have a government shutdown. I never have. I have said from the beginning of this, we all know that government is going to be funded," Lee said. "The question is: Do we fund it with Obamacare or without?"

Lee will make his first appearance in the early presidential voting state of Iowa this November at the 13th annual Friends of the Family fundraiser for the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Lee, first elected to the Senate in 2010, said he has "absolutely no plans" to run for president.

The coalition is one of Iowa's most prominent social conservative organizations. Faith and Freedom Coalition President Steve Scheffler said choosing Lee to speak at the fundraiser was a "no-brainer."

Iowa's conservative voters, he said, are looking for "people like Mike Lee who are willing to stick their neck out" on the issues that are important to them, including the health care law. "He's just right on target on every single issue."

Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican and a former Iowa state GOP political director, said past speakers at Faith and Family Coalition events have included GOP presidential contenders Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

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