Ted Cruz vs. House Republicans

September 19, 2013

Now that House Republicans are poised to pass a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare -- just as Senate conservatives have been asking for weeks -- everyone's on the same page, right?

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (David J. Phillip/AP)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (David J. Phillip/AP)

Wrong.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who has arguably led the charge to defund Obamacare in the upper chamber, responded to the news in a way that didn't sit too well with House Republicans. The Post's Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe report:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the loudest champion in the Senate of the new Boehner strategy, acknowledged that he would probably be helpless to stop the funding bill in his chamber. “Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so. At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people,” Cruz said in a statement.

That statement angered House Republicans, who felt goaded into the Obamacare fight by Cruz and his outside conservative group allies.

After Cruz’s statement was released, a Boehner spokesman countered with this statement: “We trust Republicans in the Senate will put up a fight worthy of the challenge that Obamacare poses.”

What Cruz is essentially saying is right. The Democratic-controlled Senate simply isn't going to sign off on a bill that defunds Obamacare. They'll strip that part out and send a new bill back to the House. Then, GOP leaders in the lower chamber will have to decide their next move.

But it's the subtext of Cruz's statement that irks House Republicans. He's getting the fight he asked for -- the Senate will get a bill that does exactly what he wants. Yet already, he's signaling likely defeat and seeking to shift responsibility in the debate back to House Republicans.

Cruz's push to build support in the upper chamber for defundung Obamacare through a continuing resolution has gone virtually nowhere. Only about a dozen Republican senators are in his corner while others have publicly lambasted the idea.

By agreeing to vote on a CR that defunds Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner's message was simple: It's your turn, Senate Republicans. You take up this fight, now. Don't blame us for inaction anymore.

It's time for them to pick up the mantle and get the job done," Boehner told reporters Thursday, responding to questions about comments from Cruz.

But just as the fight was beginning, Cruz sought to shine a spotlight right back on the House GOP.

At a press conference Thursday, Cruz sounded a more resolute note, vowing to filibuster and do everything he could to fight for defunding Obamacare.

"I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare," Cruz said.

Still, his opening statement Wednesday was hardly an olive branch to House Republicans.

In his first few months in the Senate, Cruz has alienated a lot of people -- both Republicans and Democrats. It's safe to say that House GOP leadership can be added to that list.

Updated at 5:47 p.m.

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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Sean Sullivan | September 19, 2013