Sen. Cruz Battles To Regain Trust Of GOP House Members

Texas Senator Ted Cruz won the ire of House Republicans last week. They managed to get House leaders to agree to a plan to defund Obamacare. But after that, Cruz announced he wouldn't be able to move the idea in the Senate. Cruz now has to deal with the proposal as it comes to the Senate floor.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And President Obama is also paying close attention to what's unfolding on Capitol Hill this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to move forward yesterday on a bill to keep the government running past October 1st.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE SESSION)

SEN. HARRY REID: I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to Executive Session to consider nominee number...

SEN. TED CRUZ: Mr. President.

GREENE: That voice interrupting there, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the lone voice in the Senate chamber wanting to stall.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE SESSION)

CRUZ: Well, I object. You asked for consent, and I object.

GREENE: Senator Cruz is a possible contender for president in 2016. He's been taking heat from some congressional Republicans for goading the House into passing a spending bill that defunds Obamacare, and then announcing afterwards that the Senate will likely strip out the defunding language, anyway. Many Republicans say they feel betrayed by the Texas senator, accusing him of starting a fight that he never figured out how to win.

As NPR's Ailsa reports, Cruz is now fighting to convince House Republicans otherwise.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: The resentment against the Texas Senator started gathering real steam last week when a CNN reporter mentioned she heard a House Republican aide compare Ted Cruz's manhood to that of Wendy Davis, and found it lacking. Davis is the Texas state legislator who became an overnight celebrity after she filibustered 11 hours to block a law limiting abortions.

For the past week, Cruz has been trying to appear unfazed by the insults.

CRUZ: Well, I'm always impressed with the courage of anonymous congressional aides.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: You know, it is very easy in Washington to make this about personalities, to make this about people. This is not about any of us. This is about the American people.

CHANG: And for the American people, Cruz has this promise.

CRUZ: I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.

CHANG: The operative word here is possible. Cruz and other conservatives insisted all summer there was a real chance House Republicans could cripple Obamacare by inserting defunding language into a spending bill right before the government was set to shut down. Only problem is that resolution will never make it out of the democratically controlled Senate.

Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated that for the umpteenth time on Monday.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

REID: The simple fact remains Obamacare is the law of the land, and will remain the law of the land as long as Barack Obama is president of the United States, and as long as I'm Senate majority leader.

CHANG: So then what was Cruz's grand plan? Well, a lot of House Republicans think he didn't have one.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCASTS)

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM: Ted Cruz and others like him have been writing checks with their mouth that their votes can't cash.

REP. PETER KING: We as House Republicans should stop letting Ted Cruz set our agenda for us.

REP. SEAN DUFFY: What I see happening now is people coming out and calling him out for the hypocrisy of these big, tough conservatives who know how to fight, but will never get in the ring.

CHANG: That was Michael Grimm of New York, Peter King of New York and Sean Duffy from Wisconsin on MSNBC and CNN. The broad assumption is that the Senate will pass a spending resolution without the health care defunding provision and send that bill back to the House. Cruz needs 41 Senators to block that from happening. One of those will not be Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma told CBS the votes just aren't there.

(SOUNDBITE OF CBS BROADCAST)

SEN. TOM COBURN: You know, tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this.

CHANG: But Cruz and his allies say they aren't giving up. They're trying to come up with maneuvers to overcome the upper hand Senate Democrats now have in this fight. On the floor Monday, Cruz accused Harry Reid of planning to use procedural tricks to ram through a spending bill without any Obamacare language.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE SESSION)

CRUZ: Now, we all know that three-and-a-half years ago, Obamacare was forced into law on a strict party line vote by straight brute force, but it shouldn't be funded that way. That's not the way a government should proceed.

CHANG: Meanwhile, Reid says it's Cruz who's resorting to brute force days before a government shutdown, by taking the country hostage for his own political goals. And as for procedural tricks, Reid says he's just following established Senate rules. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.

GREENE: This is NPR News.

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