Heritage Action CEO Lays Into House GOP

Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham on Thursday cast House Republicans as gutless for backing down on Obamacare and the farm bill.

"Washington loves to play this game of saying something can't be done,” he said. “Politicians like to set expectations as low as possible so they can't help but trip over them."

During a C-SPAN "Newsmakers" interview with CQ Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski and The Hill’s Bob Cusack, which will air Sunday, Needham said Republicans don’t know what is possible because there are still seven weeks until Sept. 30, when the government will need new spending legislation to avoid a shutdown.

Lawmakers have been asking what Heritage Action’s strategy would be if the government shut down, and they say Heritage doesn’t have an answer.

But Needham shrugged off that concern.

"See where we stand at the end of September," he implored. "Normally, when you go into a negotiation you try to preserve option value, you don't take it off the table. And so I think that rather than trying to figure out where we're going to be, we should actually fight for something.

"Passing a CR is a concession from Republicans," Needham said of the likelihood that Congress will pass a stopgap continuing resolution to keep the government funded.

Needham also had harsh words for Republicans on the farm bill.

"The disappointing thing about the farm bill is that House Republicans basically said that we're going to split this bill. We're going to say, 'You know what, we're not interested right now in food stamps, in welfare for the poor and the needy, but we're also such a corporatist party that we won't get rid of the corporate welfare in the farm bill,’” Needham said. “And that's a pretty dicey political position be in."

Needham conceded that "probably what’s likely to happen" is that the House and Senate will adopt the food stamp provisions of the Senate in conference as a result of splitting the farm bill.

But Needham also expressed hope that lawmakers would instead pass a one-year farm bill extension so his organization and other like-minded conservatives could get another whack at it.

“I hope we have that scenario,” Needham said. "For three years we've been trying to meet with [House Agriculture Chairman] Frank Lucas and talk to the House [Agriculture] Committee about what would a modern, 21st century farm bill would look like."

Heritage Action has been pushing Republicans to vote down any CR that funds Obamacare. But GOP leadership has quietly been lobbying against the strategy, which they say can’t be achieved with a Democratic Senate and White House.

Last week, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told National Review that the strategy would require 14 Democrats in the Senate to join all Republicans in voting for a continuing resolution without Obamacare.

“Right now, I am not aware of a single Democrat in the Senate who would join us,” Cantor said.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.