Begich: Ted Cruz Never Asked for My Vote

Republicans expected red-state Democrats would join them in opposing Obamacare, but apparently never informed Democrats of the plan.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 09: U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) (R) speaks at a press conference highlighting how veterans are being impacted by the government shutdown with (L-R) Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) at the U.S. Capitol October 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. During the event, Tester and others discussed how critical veterans services are being affected by the shutdown. 
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Alex Seitz Wald
Oct. 11, 2013, 6:31 a.m.

Head­ing in­to the gov­ern­ment shut­down fight, Re­pub­lic­ans thought they had a secret weapon in the form of red-state Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors, many of whom are up for reelec­tion. Giv­en the un­pop­ular­ity of Obama­care in the sen­at­ors’ home states, Re­pub­lic­ans were count­ing on be­ing able to peel off a few of their votes in or­der to get a bill to de­fund the Af­ford­able Care Act through the up­per cham­ber.

“Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans have prom­ised to leave no stone un­turned in fight­ing for this bill, and all of us here sup­port that ef­fort…. We are call­ing on Sen­ate Demo­crats to do the same thing,” House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor told re­port­ers in Septem­ber. Of course, they didn’t have much suc­cess, as all Demo­crats ended up stick­ing to­geth­er on Obama­care.

Part of the prob­lem, one of the Demo­crats tar­geted by Can­tor and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans tells Na­tion­al Journ­al, is that no one even asked for their votes. “No Re­pub­lic­an has ever come to me and talked to me about their idea on this,” Sen. Mark Be­gich, D-Alaska, said in an in­ter­view Thursday. “The only time Ted Cruz said something to me was when I was lit­er­ally com­ing to the floor, you know the two tables down by the desk there where you cast your vote. He said, ‘You should vote for this.’ That was it.”

And it’s not as if Be­gich would have turned down a meet­ing. He noted that he’s co­sponsored le­gis­la­tion with al­most every Re­pub­lic­an in the up­per cham­ber and meets with mem­bers of the oth­er party of­ten, even to the point where he once “got yelled at by the lead­er­ship” for be­ing the sole Demo­crat to sign onto to a bill sponsored by South Dakota’s John Thune. He’s worked with Rand Paul on audit­ing the Fed, Dav­id Vit­ter on a tox­ic-chem­ic­al bill, and Kelly Ayotte on a men­tal-health bill. “I’m all about de­fi­cit re­duc­tion, I voted for the se­quester. But nope, no con­ver­sa­tions,” he said.

Be­gich, who rep­res­ents the red staters in Sen­ate De­mcor­at­ic lead­er­ship meet­ings, said that as far he knows, Cruz and crew made no ser­i­ous ef­forts to reach out to oth­er mod­er­ates, like Louisi­ana’s Mary Landrieu or Arkan­sas’ Mark Pry­or. “There was kind of a curs­ory, ‘Hey, we should talk about things,’ but noth­ing like the way if you’re try­ing to get votes,” he said.

All this leads Be­gich to ques­tion what Re­pub­lic­ans were ac­tu­ally try­ing to ac­com­plish with the de­fund-or-shut­down game plan. “If they were ser­i­ous about this, rather than mak­ing a bump­er stick­er or run­ning for high­er of­fice, they would have been in this of­fice or at least picked up the phone and said, ‘Hey Be­gich, we have these ideas, what do you think?’ ” said the former An­chor­age may­or. “But the only time that my name has been men­tioned is when they do a press con­fer­ence…. My num­ber isn’t hard to find. You can call the Cap­it­ol op­er­at­or if you can’t find it.”


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.