The dangers of Ted Cruz’s ‘scared’ tactic

July 29, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) says some Republicans are "scared" to support the plan he has signed onto to defund Obamacare. A surprising comment? Perhaps not. Dangerous? Yes -- for Cruz, that is.


(J. Scott Applewhite/AP

"There are a lot of Republicans who are scared. They are scared of being beaten up politically," Cruz said Monday on Glenn Beck's radio show. He said essentially the same thing on Andrea Tantaros's show.

Cruz was talking about his push alongside fellow Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) to derail Obamacare by not supporting any budget or continuing resolution measures that provide funding for President Obama's signature health care law. Lee began the effort with a letter pressing colleagues to support the position.

The plan has caused a division in the GOP Conference. Some Republican senators support the idea, and so does the anti-tax Club For Growth. But others have panned it. Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) called it the "dumbest idea" he'd ever heard. Said Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.): "The strategy that has been laid out is a good way for Republicans to lose the House." Neither has Senate GOP Leadership embraced the position espoused by Lee, Cruz and their cohort.

That Cruz would adopt a very conservative stance in a legislative debate is no surprise. He has done so on other hot-button issues, such as immigration and gun control. He also went against the majority of his GOP colleagues when he voted to oppose the confirmation of John Kerry for secretary of state.

But calling members of his own party "scared" on a contentious issue that has already riled up Senate Republicans is a perilous move. Now, his colleagues who oppose his plan will be peppered with questions about whether fear is a factor in their decision -- something they surely will not appreciate.

On the one hand, Cruz further bolsters his conservative bona fides and cred on the right. On the other, he risks alienating himself from other GOP senators on an issue that has only fueled the perception that congressional Republicans are at odds with one another.

It's a trade-off that Cruz -- who has crafted a big-time profile in just a few months in the Senate -- will have to wrestle with as he decides where in the Republican universe he wants to fit in. So far, he has signaled a willingness to be an antagonist at virtually every turn.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza · July 29, 2013