GOP options for shutdown snarled by Cruz filibuster
This image from Senate video show Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaking on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. Cruz says he will speak until he's no longer able to stand in opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law. Cruz began a lengthy speech urging his colleagues to oppose moving ahead on a bill he supports. The measure would prevent a government shutdown and defund Obamacare. (AP Photo/Senate TV)
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas escalated his conflict with fellow Republicans yesterday when he stepped up his attacks on President Obama’s health care law, complicating House GOP efforts to pass a funding bill that would avert a government shutdown next week.
Launching a marathon speech modeled on old-fashioned filibusters, Cruz also informed his Senate GOP colleagues that he would try to stretch the debate well into the weekend, according to senators who attended private huddles yesterday. With Senate passage all but certain, including funds for the health law, senior Republicans had hoped to allow the measure to advance quickly to give House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, more time to respond with a different version of the legislation.
Instead, the freshman senator took the floor yesterday afternoon, promising to speak “until I am no longer able to stand.” His effort to block the legislation stood almost no chance of success, as the series of votes advancing it are locked in and most of his Republicans have abandoned him in the effort.
The Cruz talkathon was the latest example of the increasingly stark division among Republicans, both on Capitol Hill and nationally. The Texas newcomer, just 42 years old and nine months into office, is carrying the banner for conservatives urging a take-no-prisoners approach in confronting the president, even if it means shuttering the government.
“A great many Texans, a great many Americans feel they do not have a voice, and so I hope to play some very small role in providing the voice,” Cruz declared.
But the move angered senior Republicans, who complained that Cruz and the junior senators pushing this strategy did not understand the wounds the GOP suffered during the mid-1990s shutdown battles with President Bill Clinton. Back then, the party controlled both the House and Senate, a luxury when compared with its majority in the House today.
“I just don’t believe anybody benefits from shutting the government down, and certainly Republicans don’t. We learned that in 1995,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the dean of the GOP caucus.”We’re in the minority, we have to find a way of standing up for our principles without immolating ourselves in front of everybody, in a way when we don’t have the votes to do it.”
Some suggested this was the latest example of a party adrift, both on policy and strategic thinking. “We haven’t had much of a strategy on anything to this point. Everybody’s shooting from the hip,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican.
Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, originally preferred a different approach that would have required Democrats to vote for the health care funds, which GOP senators could had symbolically opposed.
Cruz played a leading role, along with outside conservative groups, in pushing House Republicans to take a harder line. House Republicans relented and Friday passed a bill exactly as Cruz wanted.
If Cruz holds firm, Boehner will have just hours to decide his next move.