Less than a week after the government shutdown ended, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory traveled to the nation’s capital to give a talk to a group that championed the effort to tie government funding to defunding the health care law.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy group, introduced McCrory as the kind of Republican reformer that Washington could emulate.
McCrory never addressed the controversial shutdown and host Becky Norton Dunlop, a Heritage vice president, didn’t bring it up.
Calling him called himself an “Eisenhower Republican,” McCrory preached the importance of long-term infrastructure investments. He said more emphasis should be put on vocational studies to help fuel the economy.
He also used the opportunity to explain his controversial decision not to expand Medicaid, a federal-state health insurance program for the poor, citing hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns from earlier government projections.
Some civil rights organizations, like the Advancement Project, criticized McCrory for speaking to the group that helped promote efforts that led to the shutdown.
Led by former South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint, Heritage is the nation’s largest conservative think tank. The foundation and its lobbying arm played a large role rallying Republican lawmakers to support defunding Obamacare.
McCrory Spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said there was no connection with Heritage’s political work against Obamacare and the governor’s visit because McCrory was invited on Sept. 20, before the shutdown began, to speak about positive reforms in North Carolina during his first ten months.
“The governor wasn’t concerned about strategies that various organizations use,” Tronovitch said. “He hoped that the federal shutdown would end so that essential services weren’t put into jeopardy because of federal inaction.”
McCrory criticized the Obama administration over its suit against the Tar Heel state’s new voting law and said that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper should not have publicly questioned the voting bill earlier this year.
The U.S. Justice Department is challenging a number of the law’s provisions. They include a requirement that voters show a valid, government-issued ID before casting a vote; elimination of a week of early voting and same-day registration during early voting; and restrictions on counting provisional ballots mistakenly cast in the right county, but in the wrong precinct.
More than 70 percent of African Americans who voted in 2008 and 2012 did so during the early voting period, according to the Justice Department.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s lawsuit is “political and without merit,” McCrory said, and blamed national and local media outlets for exaggerating the law’s changes. He said that many states require voters to present IDs before voting and some don’t have early voting at all. But Holder hasn’t filed a lawsuit against them, McCrory said.
“We require an ID to get a tattoo, to get Sudafed, to get food stamps, to get on an airplane,” McCrory said. “To get almost any government service in North Carolina, you have to have an ID.”
McCrory hired an outside attorney to represent the state instead of Cooper because the attorney general criticized the voter ID bill. Cooper, a Democrat who is expected to challenge McCrory for governor in the 2016 election, is also representing the state.
Correction: This post originally mis-characterized a statement of Gov. McCrory's on college education. He said that more emphasis should be placed on vocational education. It also gave the wrong date for when he was invited to speak and the wrong location for the speech. McCrory was invited Sept. 20 to speak at the Heritage Foundation.