(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, saying he hopes people recognize the "courage" of the senator who's up for re-election in 2014 and faces a challenge from the right.
He also criticized the conservative Heritage Foundation, which lobbied extensively against Obamacare. Hatch said he thinks Heritage is "in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C."
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, worked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to produce the debt and spending deal that McConnell himself described as "far less than many of us had hoped for."
McConnell’s Republican primary challenger Matt Bevin said McConnell “can always be counted on to sell out conservatives." And the Heritage Foundation -- which has lobbied extensively against Obamacare -- also blasted the Reid-McConnell deal, accusing Congress of ignoring "the shocked outcry from Americans opening letters from their insurance companies."
"The right's not going to be happy with him (McConnell)," CNN's Chuck Todd told Hatch on Thursday.
"Well, to be honest with you, the right is a multiplicity of various groups, some of which aren't even Republicans but who think they can control the Republican Party. And some of which have been good think tanks in the past but now are losing their reputation because of some of this radicalness," Hatch said.
"Are you referring to Heritage?" Todd asked.
"Well, yeah, of course I am. Heritage used to be the conservative organization helping Republicans and helping conservatives and helping us to be able to have the best intellectual, conservative ideas.
"There's a real question in the minds of many Republicans now, and I'm not just speaking for myself -- for a lot of people -- that, is Heritage going to go so political that it really doesn't amount to anything any more? I hope not. I'm going to try and help it to survive and do well. But right now, I think it's in danger of losing its clout and its power around Washington, D.C."
"Let me just say one other thing," Hatch continued. "McConnell is a terrific leader.. He's good, he's tough, he's smart, he knows what he's doing -- and I'm telling you something, this has been tough for him."
(Hatch survived a primary challenge from a tea party candidate last year.)
In announcing the deal that made no meaningful changes to Obamacare, McConnell emphasized that it did preserve the government spending reductions (sequester) that both parties agreed to under the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“This legislation is the largest spending reduction bill of the last quarter century and the largest deficit reduction bill since 1981 that didn’t include a tax hike. Preserving this law is critically important," McConnell said.
On Wednesday, after the Reid-McConnell deal was announced, the Heritage Foundation -- which repeatedly urged conservatives to hold the line against Obamacare -- posted the following blog:
To hear Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tell it, America’s long national nightmare is over. Except--it’s not. Our national nightmare isn’t the government shutdown; it’s Obamacare.
Congressional leaders have been congratulating themselves on reaching a deal to spend more of our money--a deal that keeps their own special Obamacare treatment. But while they were arguing about it, regular people have been reeling from the horror of Obamacare’s insurance hikes.
That’s right--Members of Congress and their staffs are still getting their taxpayer-funded subsidies to pay for their health insurance.
That $5,000 for individual coverage or $11,000 for family coverage will come in pretty handy for them if they’re shopping on the Obamacare exchanges, where Heritage research shows premiums are up in nearly every state.
Congress has ignored the shocked outcry from Americans opening letters from their insurance companies.
And those letters are landing in the mailboxes of both liberals and conservatives. One woman who voted for President Obama found out she will pay $1,800 more for her insurance next year. She told the San Jose Mercury News, “Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”
This is the new reality under Obamacare. Instead of giving people relief from these crushing blows to their finances, Congress made a deal to borrow more and keep Washington’s spending spree going.
As Heritage’s Grover M. Hermann Fellow Romina Boccia wrote yesterday, the deal “locks in Obamacare’s implementation with no relief in sight for those Americans who are seeing their premiums increase, their working hours cut, and their job opportunities diminished.”
The Heritage Foundation is led by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a conservative South Carolina Republican.