Ted Cruz blasted by angry GOP colleagues
By: Manu Raju
October 2, 2013 07:31 PM EDT
Ted Cruz faced a barrage of hostile questions Wednesday from angry GOP senators, who lashed the Texas tea party freshman for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.
At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate’s Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown — or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.
Things got particularly heated when Cruz was asked point-blank if he would renounce attacks waged on GOP senators by the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group that has aligned itself closely with the Texas senator.
Cruz’s response: “I will not,” according to an attendee.
The closed-door Wednesday meetings hosted by the Senate’s conservative Steering Committee are supposed to be private, so senators interviewed for this article asked not to be named.
“It seems that there is nothing the media likes to cover more than disagreements among Republicans, and apparently some senators are content to fuel those stories with anonymous quotes,” Cruz told POLITICO. “Regardless, my focus — and, I would hope, the focus of the rest of the conference — is on stopping Harry Reid’s shutdown, ensuring that vital government priorities are funded, and preventing the enormous harms that Obamacare is inflicting on millions of Americans.”
But as the government shutdown heads into day three, a number of Republican senators privately blame the Texas freshman for contributing to the mess their party finds itself in. And now that they’re in it, they say it’s up to Cruz to help find a solution.
“It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was,” said one senator who attended the meeting. “I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch.”
Over the August recess, Cruz made the rounds with conservative media and held rallies to call on his GOP colleagues to oppose any bill to keep the government running that would also continue funding Obamacare. As he won support on the right and among several dozen House conservatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to include the Obamacare defunding provision in a bill to keep the government running past Tuesday.
Cruz’s tactics culminated in a controversial 21-hour floor speech, where he derided many of his colleagues for lacking the courage to fight Obamacare. But because of complicated Senate procedures, he was calling on his 45 other GOP colleagues to filibuster the same House bill he endorsed — in order to prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) from later stripping out that language
Including Cruz, just 19 Republicans backed his filibuster attempt, and Reid later killed the Obamacare language with just Democratic votes.
At the Wednesday lunch, Cruz was asked what he would have done had GOP senators united to filibuster the House bill.
“He kept trying to change the subject because he never could answer the question,” the senator said. “It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy – it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice.”
In the run-up to the Tuesday deadline to fund the government, Cruz continued to press the anti-Obamcare fight, lobbying House conservatives to stiffen Boehner’s spine despite the prospects of a government shutdown. The speaker responded with bill after bill taking aim at pieces of the health care law. But Senate Democrats rejected each one up until the final hours of Monday night, prompting the first government shutdown since 1996.
Many Senate Republicans publicly and privately scoffed at the Cruz tactics, arguing that he was making a false and politically damaging promise that he could use the funding bill to gut Obamacare — since the law moved forward anyway on Tuesday despite the government shutdown. They argued President Barack Obama would never agree to gut his signature law. And they took great exception by Cruz and his allies in outside groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund to portray them as weak on Obamcare even though the party has furiously battled the law since the beginning of the president’s term in office.
“The entire effort has been totally disingenuous,” the senator said.
A spokesman for SCF rejected the criticism.
“If these senators had pledged to oppose funding for Obamacare, we wouldn’t have had to run ads against them,” said Executive Director Matt Hoskins. “They only have themselves to blame.”