On Anti-Obamacare Efforts, All Eyes Are On Cruz

The freshman senator has lead the charge against Obamacare, but the stakes are now higher

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walks towards the Senate Chamber after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Committee luncheon September 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill.
National Journal
Billy House, Tim Alberta and Michael Catalini
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Billy House Tim Alberta and Michael Catalini
Sept. 28, 2013, 12:34 p.m.

With three days un­til a gov­ern­ment shut­down, House Re­pub­lic­ans are hand­ing the anti-Obama­care bat­on back to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen­ate con­ser­vat­ives, who cham­pioned the long-shot ef­fort from the start.

The House is ex­pec­ted to pass a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that funds the gov­ern­ment through mid-Decem­ber, delays Obama­care for a year and re­peals a med­ic­al device tax, but Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id of Nevada prom­ises his cham­ber will re­ject the le­gis­la­tion.

Wheth­er Cruz will mount an­oth­er at­ten­tion-grabbing speech — he spoke for hours last week — is un­clear at this point. His of­fice says he has not re­viewed the House bill yet and is with­hold­ing com­ment un­til then. But some House Re­pub­lic­ans are clearly look­ing to Cruz to pick up the fight he star­ted over the sum­mer with Sen­ate Demo­crats once again.

“This is a great way to give an­oth­er chance, to give our Sen­ate con­ser­vat­ives an­oth­er chance to point out “¦ we con­tin­ue to win on the is­sue polit­ic­ally,” said Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, R-Kan­sas.

Rep. John Flem­ing, R-La., said the House’s second CR pro­pos­al should serve as a wake-up call to Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans.

“It’s very in­ter­est­ing, many of them didn’t help us with the clo­ture vote,” he said. “But when they see the re­solve that’s com­ing from the House … I think you’re go­ing to see a lot more pulling our way and the way of Ted Cruz.”

As for the Texas sen­at­or him­self, who has been al­tern­at­ively revered and re­viled by House Re­pub­lic­ans over the last two weeks, Flem­ing said: “I think Ted Cruz has been huge. He’s cre­ated a ral­ly­ing point around which Re­pub­lic­ans have pulled and the na­tion has pulled. … When this thing gets back to the Sen­ate, there are go­ing to be a lot more sen­at­ors over there who have not been with Cruz who are go­ing to give that some second thought.”

Rep. Steve Scal­ise, R-La., chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, said he ex­pects Cruz and his con­ser­vat­ive com­rades in the up­per cham­ber to fin­ish what the House has star­ted.

“I think you’re go­ing to see a united front in the Sen­ate ““ not only among Re­pub­lic­ans, but I think the bill we’re bring­ing for­ward is go­ing to have a lot of ap­peal to the point where we’ll get a num­ber of Demo­crats who vote with us as well,” Scal­ise said. “You saw Sen. [Joe] Manchin ac­know­ledging that delay is im­port­ant; it’s a bi­par­tis­an is­sue.”

While tea party Re­pub­lic­ans align with Cruz, oth­ers are less im­pressed with his ef­forts in the Sen­ate, and it’s evid­ent that Cruz’s overnight talk mara­thon left a bit­ter taste in the mouth of some.

“They’re do­ing what they think is right,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a Boehner ally. “That’s up to them. But they haven’t been able to de­liv­er. They said if we sent them what we sent them last week that they could get 41 Re­pub­lic­ans and hold firm. Well they wer­en’t able to do that.”

Cruz’s meet­ings this week with some House Re­pub­lic­ans has caused spec­u­la­tion he was man­euv­er­ing to press them to go around their lead­er­ship. But one of those House Re­pub­lic­ans, Rep. Matt Sal­mon of Ari­zona, said on Sat­urday de­scribed that his talks with Cruz con­tained no such ele­ment.

“He met with us to listen to our ideas. [He] wasn’t try­ing to im­pose his will at all,” Sal­mon said. Asked if he was try­ing to im­pose his will on Boehner, Sal­mon replied, “That is not true.”

The sen­at­or could be put in the po­s­i­tion of de­cid­ing wheth­er to op­pose Demo­crat­ic moves to again strip out anti-Obama­care lan­guage, but this time at the risk of send­ing Con­gress past the Tues­day dead­line for a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

All Sal­mon would say to that is, “My hope is that Sen. Cruz and every­body over there will move this as quickly as pos­sible and get it to the pres­id­ent’s desk as quickly as we pos­sibly can.”

The sur­viv­al of the med­ic­al device tax re­peal lan­guage as part of a fi­nal agree­ment is something that could give House Re­pub­lic­ans and Cruz claim to some meas­ure of vic­tory, should the ef­fort to delay im­ple­ment­a­tion of the Af­ford­able Care Act fail.

Re­id has de­clared his op­pos­i­tion to the med­ic­al device tax lan­guage, too. But his op­pos­i­tion might face stat­ic from some Sen­ate Demo­crats, who are get­ting pres­sure from out­side Con­gress to back a re­peal. In ad­di­tion, the Sen­ate, in a sym­bol­ic move of sup­port for the le­gis­la­tion, voted 79-20 in a non­bind­ing res­ol­u­tion in March to re­peal the med­ic­al device tax as part of the cham­ber’s 2014 budget res­ol­u­tion.

“Very clearly he could sup­port one part of it,” said Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, R-Kan­sas. “I mean, it’s up to Harry Re­id to de­cide what he’s gonna do with this and how quickly they’re gonna move on that. I just would sug­gest to sen­at­ors, don’t plan on hav­ing the day off to­mor­row.”

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