Ted Cruz Challenges Republicans To Do the (Pretty Much) Impossible

The Texan wants to defund Obamacare, which could pave the way for a government shutdown.

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Capitol Hill, July 24, 2013.

Senator Ted Cruz has a message for fellow Republicans: It’s time to go to the mat to stop Obamacare, even if that means shuttering the government.

The Texan’s strategy is simple enough. Congress needs to pass a so-called continuing resolution to keep the government running by Sept. 30. Republicans, Cruz argues, should refuse to vote for the measure unless it prohibits spending any federal money on the President’s signature legislative accomplishment. If the stance sparks a shutdown, so be it.

“If we can actually get Republicans to stand up and fight,” Cruz told reporters over Chick-Fil-A sandwiches at a briefing sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation, “I believe we can win this fight.”

Note the target of the challenge. In the six months since swaggering into the Senate, the Tea Party firebrand has caused even more heartburn for his own side than he has for Democrats. Cruz was a leading voice in the legislative fight against comprehensive immigration reform, which many Republicans consider essential to the party’s ability to compete in presidential elections. His rough questioning during Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings drew rebukes from peers, which he later repaid by dubbing Republicans “squishes” and “scared.” To the conservative grassroots, Cruz is a budding hero; to some of his colleagues, he’s a showboat bent on using the Senate as a publicity platform rather than a lawmaking body.

(MORE: The Meaning of ‘Squish’ and Other Fun-To-Say Political Slights)

Now, at a juncture when Republican leaders are leery of another round of budget brinkmanship, Cruz is inviting a showdown that could result in the party shouldering the blame for a shutdown. “It’s not going to be an easy fight,” he admitted. “But the question I would encourage you to ask of anyone doubting this strategy is: What is your alternative? … Should we just surrender?”

Cruz knows Democrats will pound the GOP for taking a position that threatens to shut down the government. But he argues a bruising confrontation is worth preventing crucial elements of health care reform, including insurance exchanges, from taking effect on Jan. 1. “No major entitlement, once it has been implemented, has ever been unwound,” he told reporters. “If we don’t do it now, in all likelihood we never will.”

Of course, Republicans have been vying to throttle the President’s signature legislative accomplishment since Congress passed it into law in March 2010. The House has voted more than three dozen times to roll back all or part of the law. In a swipe at fellow Republicans, Cruz admitted most of those efforts were little more than political theater. “Those votes were, by and large, empty, symbolic votes that had zero chance of passing,” Cruz said Tuesday.

Some Republican colleagues say the same of his own plan, which is also being spearheaded by conservative senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah.  “It requires 60 votes in the United States Senate [to achieve repeal, and] 67 votes to override a presidential veto,” says Senator John McCain, who recently dubbed Cruz a “wacko bird.” When informed of Cruz’s remarks, McCain—who was imprisoned and tortured during the Vietnam War—pretended to yank a white flag from the breast pocket of his suit. “Yeah, I’m scared,” he cracked, a tight smile frozen on his face. “I surrender.”

“It’s totally unrealistic policy,” says Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine. Others went farther. “This is misleading the conservative base, because it’s not achievable,” said Republican Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative from Oklahoma. North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

(MORE: GOP Claims High Ground in 2014 Battle for the Senate)

“They’re nervous about being blamed for a government shutdown,” Cruz said of skeptical colleagues. “To win this fight,” he added, “we have to make it riskier to do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing.” That means applying grassroots pressure on fellow conservatives by generating hundreds of thousands of phone calls. The initiative could put powerful colleagues in a bind.

Take Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentuckian is facing a primary challenge in his re-election bid next year, and could be vulnerable on the right if he doesn’t sign onto the push to defund the totemic law. On the other hand, McConnell is one of the leaders of the Republican Party, whose consultant class has widely concluded a shutdown would hurt the party, as it did in the mid-1990s. (McConnell sidestepped a reporter’s question Tuesday about the supported the effort, allowing only that “discussions continue.”)

Revisionist history, Cruz argues. “The cocktail chatter wisdom in Washington that the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans is not borne out by the data,” he said, noting Republicans dropped only a handful of House seats in 1996 and gained two in the Senate, even as Bill Clinton romped to re-election. Nor was the actual shutdown “as calamitous as many paint it,” according to Cruz. “The world didn’t end. Planes didn’t fall out of the sky. Social Security checks didn’t stop. We didn’t default on our national debt,” he said. “What happened was nonessential government services were temporarily suspended. That happens every single week. On the weekend.”

Cruz says the country is with him. But at least some poll numbers suggest otherwise. The American public remain bitterly split over the merits of the health-care law, with 40% of respondents in an April Kaiser Health Tracking poll saying they regard the law unfavorably and 35% supporting it. But by a 58% to 31% margin, respondents say they oppose stopping the health reform law by cutting off its funding. In addition, a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service indicates that “substantial” portions of the law would still be implemented in the event of a shutdown.

For now, most Republicans are parrying questions about a push that threatens to split the party over the next two months. “All Republicans would love to see Obamacare defunded,” says Republican John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the party’s Senate leadership team. “It just comes down to a difference in tactics.” The tactics they choose could have sweeping consequences for the GOP’s fortunes—and that of the country.

MORE: GOP Fights to Rebrand the Party of No

75 comments
sidseven77
sidseven77

Cruz is a hired, paid, elected lobbyist for corporate interests. He's kind of the natural successor to Michele Bachmann. He is Not interested in legislating. He's a bomb thrower & worse. I predict he won't last long.

lossofgravity
lossofgravity

Great things come from compromise, and Americans have generally been very good at it.  Our constitutional framework was a compromise between the large and small states.  Ted Cruz's "patriotic" cry to -- shut down the government in order to save it -- is the cry of a Banana Republican and reminiscent of a revolutionary firebrand named Castro and a little gulag archipelago named Cuba.  Yes, Ted Cruz has brains, but he also has bad blood and no breeding. 

leosmith2nd
leosmith2nd

It's not like the Government does anything anyway. VA Hospitals with 1 billion dollar over costs. No investigation into IRS targeting, Obama dividing the country with his racism.  Let it shut down.

queenofromania
queenofromania

And, Ted. Keep saying to those who suck at your teet, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." You are priceless! I mean, you are responsible for pulling the trigger on the gun that shot the GOP to death.

skyguynick
skyguynick

Shutting down the government?  What could go wrong?  Bringing everything to a complete halt will obviously make everything go faster.

AnthonyMcMillan
AnthonyMcMillan

Perhaps instead of warring over Obamacare, I would of preferred the right come up with a solution of their own on the abject disaster that is our medical system. In all of this back and forth from the right, I've never heard of them working on a solution to this problem. I'm not a fan of either party at the moment but it seems the right have simply said no to everything over the course of the last several years instead of coming up with any new ideas of their own. The whole agenda seems to have stalled out in the early 90's with the failed policies of the Bush era. I'm not sure why they cant come up with any ideas that actually push the country forward but I for one would like to see them change their agenda and start coming up with answers instead of playing the blame game.

BobJan
BobJan

Ted Cruz the sloth. Defends the State of Texas ans America so they can execute more people.

Cruz also successfully defended, in Medellin v. Texas, the State of Texas against an attempt by the International Court of Justice to re-open the criminal convictions of 51 murderers on death row throughout the United States.

stephenthomasfox
stephenthomasfox

De-fund Obamacare so the GOP can implement it's own plan that is what?

babycheeks
babycheeks

Insanity. The bill is now law. Repeal it, amend it, but till then it is the law. Do your duty and fund it. That is your obligation and responsible leadership.

yv0007
yv0007

This guy is ready for a maniconium. Wonder what Latinos, in particular, have to say about this demential GOP member.

VoteForTheOtherGuy
VoteForTheOtherGuy

”To win this fight” ...you would have to go back in time and convince America that after 8 years of Shrub that we *didn't* want a democrat in the White House. Because the fight is over and all you're doing is what you do best: stalling on getting anything new done.

blueseadragon
blueseadragon

What a delusional loser.  Not only is it impossible to repeal, the majority of Americans WANT this to be set up AND they voted for it by proxy when the re-elected Obama. YOU LOST. The GOP gets to work around the edges but the center of the policy stage belongs to Obama. I don't care if you or your fellow travelers posting here think it is socialism, it was MY choice and that of a majority of voters. we voted for it and it enrages us when you try to overturn national elections because you didn't win. Do us a favor and scamper off to Russia, where democracy is still a lip-service action where you won't get hurt as long as you vote THE RIGHT WAY...

alcervera
alcervera

Unfortunately we have a Texas Senator who is a One Trick Pony! Never a POSITIVE attitude or plan! The epitome of the "Politics of NO"! Our other Senator John Cornyn is almost as bad! Poor Texas----Taxation without Representation by the miracle of redistricting! Let's continue to suppress minority voters! Hooray for Eric Holder and the Department of  Justice!

MargaretRomaoToigo
MargaretRomaoToigo

Is it possible that Ted Cruz is on some deep undercover assignment for the Democrats, in which his mission is to sabotage the Republicans so that the Democrats can keep the Senate and take back the House in 2014?

m.p.williams
m.p.williams

As a Texan and as a sensible and temperate person, I can only remark, "Ted Cruz -- what an ***hole." How a state full of some of the best people on the planet saw fit to squander a U.S. Senate seat on the likes of this idiot is one of the great mysteries of our time.

Hermione
Hermione

How many times can one kick a dead horse?

Come on Cruz....

pianomanrsn01
pianomanrsn01

The healthcare exchanges seem to be working much better than anticipated and the Affordable Healthcare Act even with all the junk the Republicans burdened it with is helping low income and older people with healthcare issues to finally get meaningful access to healthcare.  Cruz is out of step not only with Texans but a huge number of Americans who think the time has come for a more competitive and lower cost healthcare system.  He attacks entitlements and their permanence once enacted but wants to give the farmers even more money than the House-passed bill that would make farm subsidies permanent and cost the US tax payer $200 billion over the next 10 years.  In short he wants the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer.  Good luck with that strategy as Hispanics, Blacks and Asians make up an increasing number of voters.

OldBob
OldBob

"...misleading the conservative base,...".  That's a laugh.  It's not possible to mislead the conservative base any more than they are being misled every day.  The very purpose of having the "conservative base" is to have a bunch of less-than-politically-astute devotees who will vote for any candidate who carries the brand-name "conservative" with little regard for his/her/its abilities, intelligence, political saavy, or experience, and with absolutely NO regard for how the intended policies of these individuals will (negatively) impact the "base".  All they have to chant is "I'm a born-agin', no taxes, no immigrants, no, No, NO kinda guy" and the droolards in the "base" know they're supposed vote for them!  It's easy!  It's simple!  It's quick!  It's requires no thought!  Push the hot buttons and out come votes!  Wooo-hooo!

Larry46r
Larry46r

This person is a congenital idiot. I suggest he stops using any and every service that taxpayer dollars have provided. I wonder how long he would survive.

AlexVallas
AlexVallas

How did this guy ever get through Harvard?  One has to think him being a minority had something to do with it.  Did he receive  federal aid?  There is no question, what comes out of his mouth smells the same as what comes out of another part of his anatomy.   Maybe even worse. 

ahalp77
ahalp77

Really cool! Shut down the govt. That will really make the Republicans more attractive to the middle class minorities and woman voters.  Cruz is a real Ass...I would not vote for him for tash collector!!


MrObvious
MrObvious

I'd love a sane conservative movement. We need two strong and sane political parties that can present two diverging but strong political ideas that benefit all citizens. No one stands to gain from a centrist Democratic party and a lunatic GOP fringe. What we get is hostage taking as a way to get what you want and a corporate influenced legislative mush from the centrists.

This is not in the best interest of anyone on the left or right.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Meanwhile here is what the GOP is doing on the economic front to help the voters. Nothing.

GOP is now paralyzed

Refusing to even consider the president's proposal yesterday shows they can't even help their own constituents now

raouol
raouol

For how long will the Republicans fight Obama and not show any new plans of their own? If we get rid of Obama, who will we get from the Republican side and with what plans?

TomSorensen
TomSorensen

Send him into Mexico and make him disappear for good

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

I'm confused, did the voters not know about ObamaCare when they re elected Obama in the fall as well as give him more seats in the House and Senate? Sounds like Cruz is defying the American voters.

grape_crush
grape_crush

When are the Republicans going to grow a pair and shut this wackjob howler monkey of a Senator down? Or can they?

Gonna be hard to get anything done at a national level, like win the White House, if they can't put a muzzle on their more extreme members.

KentR
KentR

Seems that the Republican has a Karl Rove  K street ideals   and  a Paupers  power  with delusions of grandeur in personal  do it my way power..  and fox mental ideals..  you see what that got  last presidential election..  

jmac
jmac

The most amazing thing about their fight over health care reform is that it's RepublicanCare.   It's a Republican healthcare plan.   They coined it Obamacare to make it about Obama.   Cruz isn't for his country; he's simply against Obama.   It's also been pointed out that he doesn't have a plan B - it's all kabuki.   If you think about it Cruz would look great in a Japanese robe on stage - he's got the face for it.  Sinister.    

HenryMajor
HenryMajor

If the Republicans actually shut down the government, all they will be doing is reminding people how much the people like government.

MobileCasinoBoy
MobileCasinoBoy

@AnthonyMcMillanThe solution is for the government to stop getting their nose in everybody's business. The conservative solution would involve dismantling the Department of Health, cutting back the FDA influence, and finally funding Medicaid , Medicare, Obamacare, guns for migrants and any other feel good, tear jerking, emotionally unstable program their anxieties cooked up.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Maybe the Tea Party people will learn where teh Social security checks and Medicare and Medicaid payments come from and this time, shut down the computer that pays the Senate and House members and cancel their medical insurance and pension plans.  Cancel any government credit cards and their government IDs.  We wouldn't want a terrorist sneaking into theri offices.

schnealy
schnealy

We need to support candidates outside of the two party system.  Most issues have more than 2 perspectives, but that is all the public ever hears.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Just like skunks don't recognize their own scent, they don't recognize their own ideas when the President states them. 

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@mantisdragon91 

and you clearly don't understand how politics work. cruz is an elected republican. his job is to represent the people who elected him (a republican majority in texas). republicans don't want obamacare, so by going against obamacare, he's representing the interests of the people who elected him. just because obama is president doesn't mean that everyone in the country agrees with him and his policies. almost half of the country doesn't.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@grape_crush 

If it wasn't for the fact that the tea party keep on primariying anyone who doesn't tow the line. I don't think GOP have the power to resist the tea party anymore. Especially since the tea party have some really strong money backers.

blueseadragon
blueseadragon

Sorry Mozz, but as Harry Truman used to say "I just told them the truth, and it felt like hell!"



Larry46r
Larry46r

@clell65619 @Larry46r Yeah - including roads, hospitals, the Armed Forces, community infrastructure, protection of citizens from criminal activities and just about everything else you can possibly think of that gives Americans the freedom to live in a country where the duly elected government is able to provide these services through taxation and the cooperation of the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches. For the last seven years the Republican Party has pursued their negative best to paralyze what is arguably the best system of governing on this planet. 

BobJan
BobJan

Cruz has never held a private sector job. He's always mooched of the US taxpayer. What a sloth.

BobJan
BobJan

@cjh2nd @mantisdragon91 well then, his district doesn't have to surrender to Obamacare. Cruz also doesn't represent the whole country. He represents those that gave him political contributions. And besides, when is Cruz going to give up his free medical plan that he has c/o the US taxpayer? Cruz is an idiot.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@cjh2nd @mantisdragon91 

Most people can chew bubblegum and get other things done.

Why can't 'wingers? If Obamacare was on the national mind then Mitt would've won in 2012 and GOP taken back the Senate.

Yet when you look at what people actually worry about it's more about the financial situation and jobs - something GOP ran on in 2010 and won and now can't seem to think twice about unless it's tax cuts for super rich. BTW - Mitt ran on the whole magic tax cuts too as did lots of GOPers. And they lost.

What Ted sells is not what most people want. And the longer Ted continue to extort our economy over an issue that's not on most peoples mind just to benefit the GOP base, then GOP and its base will continue to lose.