* Republicans split over tactics on Obama's health law
* Gathering of conservatives also draws Rubio, Jindal, Perry
By Caren Bohan
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug 31 Texas Senator Ted Cruz,
who is leading a conservative push to eliminate funding for
President Barack Obama's new healthcare law, took his fight on
Saturday to a forum of Republican activists where he challenged
lawmakers in his party not to "surrender" on Obamacare.
Cruz, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate,
used a speech to an Americans for Prosperity conference in
Orlando, Florida, to take to task those in his party who are
wary of risking a possible government shutdown in an effort to
fight Obama's signature healthcare law.
"Right now, the people who are fighting the hardest against
our effort to defund Obama, sadly, are Republicans," Cruz told
several hundred activists. "Well, you know what: you lose 100
percent of the fight if you surrender at the outset."
To loud applause, he added that Republicans should "stand up
and win the argument."
Congress, which returns to Washington on Sept. 9 after a
summer break, faces two budget fights in quick succession.
Lawmakers must pass a spending bill by Oct. 1 to avoid a
government shutdown. By mid-October, they must pass an increase
in the country's borrowing limit or risk a default on the debt.
Cruz is among a group of conservative lawmakers who want to
use the first showdown - over a bill to keep the government
funded - to try to block Obamacare.
But many congressional Republicans, including House of
Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell, disagree with that approach even though they
too oppose Obamacare.
Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have
repeatedly tried to repeal the 2010 healthcare law.
Implementation for a major part of the law will begin on
Oct. 1, when healthcare insurance marketplaces, known as
exchanges, will be rolled out in the states.
Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is
expected to extend federally subsidized health coverage to an
estimated 7 million uninsured Americans in 2014 through the
marketplaces. Republicans contend the law will be a burden on
businesses and cost jobs.
The two-day gathering in Orlando of Americans for
Prosperity, a conservative group backed by billionaire brothers
Charles and David Koch, was titled "Defending the American
Three other possible 2016 White House contenders addressed
the forum on Friday: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana
Governor Bobby Jindal and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Rubio also focused his speech on a call to eliminate funding
for Obamacare. He got strong applause for that view but faced
some heckling over his support for immigration reform, even
though he did not raise that issue in his speech.
'RUN, TED, RUN'
Jindal and Perry got enthusiastic welcomes from the crowd
but Cruz seemed to generate the most excitement, with the
activists chanting, "Run, Ted, Run."
At the conference, Obamacare was a top issue and proved a
contentious one for another Republican senator, Ron Johnson of
Wisconsin, who led a session on federal spending.
Johnson, who won his seat in 2010 with the backing of the
Tea Party, was heckled when he said using the spending measure
to try to stop Obamacare would not work.
Even if Congress did not appropriate any new money for the
health law, the program would continue because it is a so-called
mandatory program in which benefits are not subject to annual
appropriations, Johnson said.
"We've got to be smart and strategic in terms of something
we can win on,' said Johnson, who called instead for trying to
force a delay in the healthcare law.
One woman in the audience stood up and told Johnson to "have
backbone" and 'be strong."
Mirroring divisions among Republicans in Congress, the room
was divided on the issue, with some in the audience cheering on
the woman and others showing support for Johnson.
"Oh, please," said one man, when the woman interrupted
"I am fighting hard to repeal this thing," Johnson said, his
voice rising. "Nobody in Congress wants to repeal Obamacare more