U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is still on a mission to defund Obamacare, but it's looking increasingly like fewer and fewer colleagues want to follow him. A week from a government shutdown, the far-right strategy of funding the government only if the health care law is defunded is getting more confusing. The Texas Republican is making more enemies than friends in his own party -- both inside the House and Senate -- as colleagues fear there is just no end in sight.
Simply put, the party is in even more disarray with the continued operation of the government and the country’s credit rating hanging in the balance. Without a new appropriations bill, the government ceases operation on Oct. 1 for lack of funding, something known as a shutdown.
The House voted last week to pass a stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, to prevent a government shutdown until Dec. 15, while defunding the health care law. The Senate is expected to restore funding to Obamacare with a simple majority vote and send the bill back to the House; the burden of deciding whether to keep the government running would then be on the Republican-controlled lower chamber. But in the latest twist, Cruz is now demanding a 60-vote threshold from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., before the health care law receives a penny.
“This is the battle line: Senate Republicans must stop Reid from rejecting the House bill and adding Obamacare funding with merely 51 votes,” Cruz wrote Monday in an article for Real Clear Politics. “The House bill must be protected. ... Until Reid guarantees a 60-vote threshold on all amendments, a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare. It would amount to giving the Democrats a green light to fund Obamacare with 51 votes.”
For the tea party-backed freshman senator, victory appears to be when there is no money going toward the Affordable Care Act -- something Democrats said isn’t going to happen -- even if it means governing in increments and repeated threats of a government shutdown.
“Regardless, the House should stand its ground, and if Reid kills this continuing resolution then the House should pass smaller CRs one at a time, starting with the military,” Cruz continued. “Dare Reid to keep voting to shut down the government.”
‘Bad For The Party’
That strategy isn't buying Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, any friends. In fact it's making him enemies, who aren't mincing words. Here’s what Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told CNN:
“I hope people will get the message this guy is bad for the party,” King said.
And, “We can’t be going off on these false missions that Ted Cruz wants us to go on. The issues are too important. They’re too serious, they require real conservative solutions, not cheap headline-hunting schemes.”
And here’s Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Twitter:
I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count -- the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position. –BC
â€” Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) September 19, 2013
Even former Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire is knocking his fellow Republicans for holding the country hostage to Obamacare defunding. In terms of Republicans tying the debt ceiling to Obamacare, Gregg wrote in The Hill that this is “the political equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded.”
“It is the ultimate no-win strategy,” Gregg wrote. “You cannot in politics take a hostage you cannot shoot. That is what the debt ceiling is. At some point, the debt ceiling will have to be increased not because it is a good idea but because it is the only idea.”
Polls have shown that Obamacare is unpopular among Americans. Still, more people want lawmakers to try and make it work as well as possible than those who want them to make it fail, according to a Pew Research Center-USA Today poll.
‘Not Enough Principled Leaders’
Even with that, Republicans clinging to the defund-Obamacare plan say they aren’t advocating for a government shutdown.
“We’d like to believe that the GOP establishment would applaud the way these bold leaders [Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah] have rallied the grass-roots to their cause,” former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin wrote on Breitbart.com, a conservative website. “But, no, such praise would require a commensurate level of guts and leadership, and the permanent political class in D.C. is nothing if not gutless and rudderless.”
She calls for the Senate to “put itself on Cruz Control.”
“If the Senate doesn’t get behind Ted Cruz’s efforts to defund Obamacare, it won’t be because of any failure on Ted’s part,” the post continued. “It’ll be because there weren’t enough principled leaders to stand with him, and that would be a tragic loss, not for Ted, but for America.”