Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), told pastors Tuesday that he would do his best to make sure the government could not be funded if that funding included any taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood -- but that any attempt to blame him for a government shutdown that could result would be "nonsense."
Cruz, who has looked to harness the support of social conservative and evangelical voters for his presidential campaign, is taking a lead role in a nationwide campaign to end federal funding for the organization.
In a conference call that more than 100,000 pastors received invitations to participate in, Cruz said members of both parties in Congress want an "empty show vote" on funding Planned Parenthood, one that "has no teeth and no consequence" and is not tied to must-pass legislation. There is a way to ensure that the vote will matter, he said: tying it to an appropriations bill funding the federal government.
"We can expect President Obama and many of the congressional Democrats to cry loudly that if Congress uses its authority, Congress will be quote 'shutting down the government.' That, of course, is nonsense," Cruz said.
An effort by Senate Republicans to end funding for the organization failed earlier this month. Cruz was a co-sponsor of the bill, which fell short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.
Cruz told pastors to speak to their congregations about the hidden-camera videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the donation of fetal tissue in a seemingly cavalier fashion, and urge them to "light up the phones" of elected officials to end taxpayer funding for the group, even if those discussions invited controversy.
"Preaching from the pulpit Biblical values on life and comparing those values, the teachings of Jesus, to this nationwide business of trafficking in the body parts of unborn children is a message that needs to be hard around this country," Cruz said. The pastor outreach effort he participated in Tuesday was sponsored by the American Renewal Project.
"It is important that [Congress] hear also that a show vote will not suffice. An empty vote with no teeth on it will not suffice. Now is the time for Congress to act and actually end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood," Cruz said.
The presidential candidate drew national attention after championing controversial efforts to block implementation of President Obama's health care law in 2013. The crusade included a 21-hour floor speech and led to a 16-day government shutdown.
Cruz is taking a lead role in the endeavor as his presidential campaign is working assiduously to court evangelical Christians. Roughly one in four voters have identified as evangelical in exit polls during the last 11 years; the number is even higher in Iowa and the Southern states that Cruz has said are critical to his run.
The Texas Republican held a "Rally for Religious Liberty" Friday in Des Moines, where he said there is a "war on faith" and tried to convince evangelical voters that he should be their candidate of choice.
You wonder why we have a federal government that comes after our free-speech rights, that comes after our religious liberty, that comes after life, that comes after marriage, that comes after our values,” Cruz said Friday, blaming that state of affairs again on the 54 million evangelicals who stayed home during the 2012 presidential election.
“I’m here to tell you,” Cruz said, “we will stay home no longer.”