Ted Cruz: Reid Won’t Talk. Senate Republicans: Reid’s Talking

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to reporters before going into the Senate Chamber to vote, on October 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. The shut down is currently in it's 12th day.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Oct. 12, 2013, 12:44 p.m.

Look for no white flag from Sen. Ted Cruz’s Obama­care bar­ri­cade.

As Sen­ate eld­ers grasp the reins of the de­bate to re­open gov­ern­ment and ex­tend the debt lim­it, Cruz has not budged an inch from the po­s­i­tion he made fam­ous weeks ago, when he and his al­lies spoke on the Sen­ate floor for al­most a full day.

“Pres­id­ent Obama and the Demo­crats re­fuse to ne­go­ti­ate,” Cruz said, ex­it­ing a closed-door meet­ing of Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans on Sat­urday. “Re­pub­lic­ans in the House are work­ing to fund vi­tal pri­or­it­ies and they’re also work­ing to provide mean­ing­ful re­lief to the mil­lions of people across this coun­try who have lost their jobs, who have lost their health care be­cause of Obama­care.”

Cruz crisply de­livered his well-worn state­ment to a hand­ful of re­port­ers, even as his col­leagues flooded the Ohio Clock cor­ridor out­side the Sen­ate cham­ber to de­liv­er an­oth­er mes­sage en­tirely: Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id are now talk­ing, and the House can vote on what the Sen­ate sends it.

Gone is the talk of mini-con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tions and the in­sist­ence that Demo­crats ne­go­ti­ate be­cause, as nu­mer­ous Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors said, those talks are now in­deed un­der way.

“The real con­ver­sa­tion that mat­ters now is the one that’s tak­ing place between Mc­Con­nell and Re­id,” said Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn.

The think­ing among Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, es­pe­cially those who dis­agreed with Cruz’s strategy from the start, is that it’s time to make a deal. Re­pub­lic­ans al­ways ex­pec­ted to gain spend­ing or en­ti­tle­ment con­ces­sions from the White House over the debt lim­it, and they’re still hope­ful they can achieve a vic­tory.

Re­pub­lic­ans are even hag­gling in pub­lic.

“If you asked me if I wanted a six-month CR I’d say we’d prob­ably get there but I’d rather have a 12-month CR,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “That would be the nor­mal view of our con­fer­ence. Say a 90-day debt ceil­ing or I’d rather see a 60-day debt ceil­ing in­crease so we can come back and vis­it that.”

While a pro­pos­al from Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., gained early trac­tion and in­cluded a delay of a med­ic­al-device tax that par­tially funds Obama­care, the dis­cus­sion among key Re­pub­lic­ans has shif­ted away from the health care law.

“In the end, Sen­at­or Mc­Con­nell and Sen­at­or Re­id have to come up with re­com­mend­a­tion for us about how to open the gov­ern­ment, how to pay our bills by rais­ing the debt lim­it and how to re­duce the debt,” said Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der, R-Tenn., who joined Re­id, Mc­Con­nell, and Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y., at a 9 a.m. meet­ing on Sat­urday to open the dis­cus­sion.

Re­pub­lic­ans still re­vile the health care law, but their fo­cus has clearly shif­ted to whatever lever­age they have on the debt ceil­ing.

“The most im­port­ant as­pect of this is hold­ing the line on spend­ing and get­ting the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess to work. I’m one who thought we ought to have a budget con­fer­ence and would like to see that hap­pen,” said Sen. Jerry Mor­an, R-Kan.

How Cruz will pitch his next battle over the Af­ford­able Care Act is not clear, but he says he’s still telling his col­leagues in the House and Sen­ate to con­tin­ue the it­er­at­ive pro­cess of passing piece­meal con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tions and to fo­cus on un­do­ing the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture le­gis­lat­ive achieve­ment.

“That’s what our fo­cus should be and that’s what I’m ur­ging people both privately and pub­licly to do,” he said.

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