MENTOR, Ohio -- Frustrations by some Minnesota delegates with the political establishment in Washington spilled into a question-and-answer session here Wednesday morning with U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina.
In an address to Minnesota's delegation during their breakfast meeting at a Holiday Inn just outside of Cleveland, McHenry tried to rally delegates, urging them to help elect Republicans congressional candidates in competitive races. Instead, he was met with skeptical questioning by some conservatives who vented and provided a frank assessment of the GOP-led Congress.
Minnesota Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, was the first to grill McHenry.
"One thing that was discouraging at the federal level, with the liberals, was the last budget agreement," Gruenhagen said. "You didn't even give give the pretext of a fight. You gave Obama basically all the funding he wanted in almost every area, whether it was Obamacare or refugees from the Middle East."
He added: "Between (House Speaker) Paul Ryan and (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, I didn't see a lot of principled stances in almost any areas. Other than that, I'm sure you're doing a good job."
He went on to criticize congressional Republicans' repeated efforts to repeal President Obama's health care, referring to bills as "window dressing."
McHenry shot back: "Really? That's window dressing?" He argued that when Democrats controlled the Senate, it made House Republicans attempts more difficult. "The Herculean task for us to actually put a whole repeal on Obama and defund Planned Parenthood on the president's desk, don't diminish it," he said.
The North Carolina representative furthermore blamed infighting among House Republicans for the budget deal that he called a "disaster. "Liberals got the upper hand," McHenry said. "When we fight among ourselves, it will always give the other side a huge advantage."
Christopher Rush, a delegate from Woodbury, spoke next, telling McHenry that the questions reflected a demoralized base, particularly after efforts to defund Planned Parenthood failed. He said uproar last summer over surreptitiously taped video by anti-abortion advocates should have been enough to galvanize Republicans into a prolonged fight.
"You have a nationwide sting that shows how they're corrupted, and then, we feel like the base of pro-life people, people who care about the issue, got spit in the face."
He added: "Why are we supporting the Republicans if they're not even going to get cut up a little bit?"
After another delegate also weighed in, saying he preferred the energy and conservative message of the Tea Party movement, the question-and-answer session ended.