SANDY, Utah (AP) — Tea party favorites and Republican U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee condemned the federal health care law and the Obama administration to a crowd about 1,000 Utah Republican faithful Friday night.
Cruz, speaking in front of a giant American flag, called President Barack Obama “the most lawless President” in the nation’s history, criticizing decisions from his administration to delay parts of the health law and deciding not to go after states legalizing marijuana.
Cruz’s speech closed out a two-day conference of western Republican leaders from about a dozen states, who gathered in Utah to discuss public lands and campaign strategies, among other issues.
The crowd gave Cruz several standing ovations during his 20 minute speech, including when he called for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and repealing the health care law.
Cruz, potential 2016 presidential candidate, led a fight last fall that precipitated the 16-day partial government shutdown over opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care law.
“There are those in the establishment who didn’t appreciate that effort,” said Lee, who was a key player in the effort.
Besides Lee and Cruz, other speakers at the Western Republican Leadership Conference included U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, National Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, and congressional candidate Mia Love.
Several speakers Friday made repeated references to the troubled rollout of the health care law and repeatedly criticized Democrats and Obama, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Love, who narrowly lost to Democratic U.S. Rep Jim Matheson in 2012, urged the GOP attendees to get involved.
Love is running to replace Matheson this year in Utah’s 4th Congressional District. If she wins, she will become the first black female Republican in Congress in U.S. history.
Hatch, who spoke at a smaller dinner gathering earlier in the evening, discussed the national fight this year for control of Congress.
Republicans are expected to maintain control of the U.S. House and are hoping to pick up the six seats they need to overtake the Senate.
In their push to win the Senate this year, Republicans are focusing on the health care law, which is hated by many on the right and something Hatch touched on in his roughly 10-minute address.
“We can’t run just on ‘Obamacare.’ Although I think we could,” Hatch said. “It is so bad.”
Cruz, too, spoke of the GOP retaking the Senate, shouting “Yes, we can,” purposely borrowing a phrase frequently used by Obama during his presidential campaigns.
“As good as 2014’s going to be, 2016 is going to be even better,” said Cruz, who did not speak specifically about whether he would run for president.
Friday night’s events closed out two days of panel discussions about public lands, efforts to appeal to female and minority voters, and fundraising and campaign strategies.
At an earlier workshop Friday, officials from several Western states gathered to discuss their push to gain more control over public lands within their borders.
The group, which included U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and lawmakers from Montana, Nevada and Utah said states are missing out on revenue and opportunities to prevent wildfires.
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