A growing number of Republicans are rejecting calls from leading conservatives, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, to defund the president’s health care law in the resolution to keep the government running past Sept. 30. The rift exposes an emerging divide over how the GOP can best achieve its No. 1 goal — to repeal Obamacare — while highlighting the spreading fears that Republicans would lose a public relations war if the dispute leads to a government shutdown in the fall. …

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called the push to defund the law through the continuing resolution the “dumbest idea” he had ever heard.

“Defunding the Affordable Care Act is not achievable by shutting down the federal government,” Burr said. “At some point, you’re going to open the federal government back up, and Barack Obama is going to be president.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) have circulated letters in the Senate and House to push their colleagues to unite behind the anti-Obamacare effort. The proponents of the push argue that if the government shuts down over Obamacare, it will be the president’s fault — not theirs.

“I see it as Obama is threatening to shut down the government unless we fund Obamacare,” Rubio said.