(CNN) – The Republican divide over whether to shut down the federal government in a bid to end President Barack Obama's health care law is merely a tactical split, rather than a larger ideological rift, the party's national chairman said Sunday.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said he wasn't picking a side on the issue, which has pitted establishment party members against their younger colleagues.
"I am not advocating for one tactic or the other, but what I am advocating for is to set the record straight that the Republican Party is the party that is totally unified in defunding and delaying and getting rid of Obamacare. It's the Democrats fighting each other over the overall picture of whether or not we should keep Obamacare in place," Priebus told chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.
To illustrate the Democratic split, Priebus pointed to July votes in the House on delaying the individual and employer mandates in Obamacare, which garnered support from 22 and 35 Democrats, respectively. Those handful of Democratic lawmakers, he argued, represented more of a divide than do Republicans squabbling over the best way to end the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010.
"The real story here is the Democrats in the Senate and the House, the ones that are vulnerable and want to be re-elected, have turned their back on the president, and that's the story. Not the tactics on the Republican side of the aisle," he argued.
Those tactics will come to a head in late September, when the current measure funding the federal government is set to expire. Some Republicans have said they'll oppose any new continuing resolution that doesn't strip Obamacare of its funding.
Leading that fight are three Republicans elected to office on waves of tea party support: Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Marco Rubio of Florida.
In Iowa Saturday, Cruz amplified his calls for using the upcoming government funding fight as leverage to defund Obamacare, but said fellow Republicans threatened to stall his efforts.
"A lot of politicians in Washington, in both parties, are telling the American people, 'It can't be done.' Why? Because Barack Obama will always stand for his principles, so America, apparently conservatives, have to give up on ours," he said at a gathering hosted by the evangelical organization Family Leader.
Instead of working together on a real plan to get rid of Obama's health care law, Cruz argued that establishment Republicans were simply putting on a guise of opposing Obamacare without taking real action.
"This thing ain't working, but I can't count the number of Republicans in Washington saying we can't defund it," he said. "We can pass symbolic votes against it, but we can't actually stand up and take a risk and potentially be blamed."
Republicans who oppose a government shutdown fight include GOP Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn, as well as last year's GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who told a crowd of Republican donors in New Hampshire last week that "the people of the nation would not be happy" if Republicans help trigger a shutdown.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has also tamped down on talk of government shutdown threats, saying in an interview with the National Review that "no one is advocating a government shutdown."
But in Iowa, Cruz's calls for defunding Obamacare were met with enthusiastic applause - something he said was unlikely to be replicated in Washington.
"If I were sitting in the Senate cloakroom, the reaction to that statement would be fundamentally different. I don't think I'm quick enough to dodge all the things that would be thrown at me," he joked.