Within Senate GOP, frustration with Cruz
By Erik Wasson and Peter Schroeder - 09/25/13 05:30 AM ET
A number of Sen. Ted Cruz's colleagues on Tuesday expressed frustration at the Texas Republican's tactics in the fight over ObamaCare and government funding.
As Cruz prepared to speak for hours on the Senate floor to try to delay work on the government-funding measure, many fellow GOP senators exited a conference meeting said they thought his strategy would backfire on their party.
“We have an obligation to govern and it does not make sense to link defunding ObamaCare, as much as I’d like to see that come about, with a measure that is essential to keep government funding,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.). “That includes vital money for the Department of Defense that pays our troops in harms way.
“I don’t think its good policy and good policy and good politics usually go together,” she said.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), who has previously criticized the strategy, said threatening a government shutdown was never a good tactic.
“To me it never seemed like an idea that was going to go far. It never seemed to me like it had a lot of possibilities. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get a lot of attention,” Johanns said. “The majority is the majority. That is the reality…there is a difference in being in the majority and being in the minority.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) convened a special all-conference meeting on Tuesday to try to unify his conference.
But during and after the meeting, Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) indicated they intended to continue their effort to link ObamaCare's defunding to a government funding bill.
The two also indicated they would seek to delay Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) effort to strip the ObamaCare language from the bill and send a clean government-funding bill to the House.
McConnell had said it would be better to send the clean bill to the House soon, to give House Republicans more time to make a counter offer to the Senate.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said many members wanted to get on with the debate but Lee and Cruz were not listening.
“Digging in? No more than they have already,” he said.
Asked by a reporter if Republicans were unifying, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) responded, "Um … that's a hard call."
Other senior members were plain in their discomfort with the shutdown brinksmanship.
"I went through that in '95. We had both houses of Congress, we balance the budget, I think three years in a row, and we just turned the country over to Democrats," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "That's what happened. They blamed the Republicans for doing that, and I suspect it would be a repeat of the same thing.
"We have to find a way of standing up for principles without immolating ourselves in front of everybody," he added.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said members were worried that voting to block the House CR that defunds ObamaCare would be too difficult to explain to members of the public “who don’t understand or care to understand” Senate procedure.
“We are getting wrapped up in a whole lot of procedural things,” he said. “We’ll have procedural votes that will be very hard to explain.”