Bevin, a well-funded businessman from Louisville, is seeking to oust the Senate minority leader in the state's Republican primary next spring. He rejected the view, espoused by GOP leaders, that it's impractical to withhold votes for funding the government when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 unless Obamacare is defunded. Senior Republicans say they lack the votes in the Senate and, having learned their lessons from the shutdown debacles of the 1990s, have resisted the quixotic strategy even as conservatives mount an all-out push.
"I am not convinced that Democrats are willing to shut the government down. I say vote to fund everything else, even things we're opposed to, in exchange for not funding Obamacare," Bevin said. "That way it's a pure play -- this is about funding Obamacare or not. And defund it in its entirety. I don't believe the Democrats or the president would be willing to jam this down peoples' throats. I think they would blink and defund this and give it a one-year pass. That's exactly what Republicans should hold them to. Let the Democrats blink."
McConnell doesn't want to jeopardize the GOP's chances of taking back the Senate majority next year. Even as a fervent opponent of the health care law, he has resisted the shutdown push, telling constituents that although he wants to stop Obamacare, "shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare."
Bevin pulled no punches against McConnell, accusing him of refusing to embrace the Obamacare shutdown push out of political expediency. "This is a man who is unwilling to lead," the Kentucky businessman told TPM. "He is unfit to lead and he should be removed. And that is what I'm trying to do. People are fed up with this."
A McConnell campaign spokesperson didn't respond to a request for comment.
In a memo to Republicans last Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) promised more votes to systematically derail the "train wreck" that is Obamacare but steered clear of the shutdown strategy.
TPM pressed Bevin on the unlikelihood of the president neutering his own signature achievement, and the political dangers for the GOP of shutting down the government. He held firm, saying it's not the job of lawmakers to govern on the basis of reelection.
"To me there's way too much governing that is determined in that fashion. This isn't about just getting re-elected," he said. It's about doing the right thing. It's about putting principle over power. And that is something that has not been done for a long, long time."