Cruz speaks to reporters Wednesday as Senate leaders announced a deal to reopen the government. (Tom William/CQ Roll Call)
Talking to a small group of reporters Wednesday, Sen. John McCain struggled to be heard over the booming voice of Sen. Ted Cruz, who yards away had assumed the stakeout position usually reserved for leaders in the Capitol’s Ohio Clock Corridor.
Cruz was railing on Senate Republican leadership, on the president’s health care law and on the “establishment,” in front of a swarm of reporters. Cruz’s words rang like a triumphant victory speech, even though his strategy to link defunding of the Affordable Care Act to funding the government had failed. In the shadows of cameras trained on the Texas Republican, McCain, a 26-year Senate veteran, was peeved and a touch incredulous as to how this debacle played out for his party. Full story
Updated 4:00 p.m.: Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah did not attend Tuesday’s party luncheon where a number of ideas to avert default were discussed, according to a senator present at the meeting.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — who has referred to the tea party conservatives as “wacko birds” and has repeatedly called their plan to link defunding of Obamacare to the government shutdown a “fool’s errand” — outed the two no-shows.
Cruz and Lee pose two of the most serious threats (outside of maybe the entire House GOP caucus) to getting a debt limit deal before Treasury’s Thursday deadline because they could block any unanimous consent request to cede procedural time. At this point, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has not yet filed cloture on the framework he discussed with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the leaders would need such a time agreement to expedite the procedural process for the bill.
CQ Roll Call asked Lee on Monday whether he would be able to make a decision on whether he would block a consent agreement after attending Tuesday’s lunch and hearing McConnell explain the contours of the plan. At the time, Lee said “perhaps.”
On Monday night, Cruz gathered with House conservatives at a popular Hill restaurant to strategize their plan going forward. It wasn’t immediately clear where he was dining for lunch.
Neither Cruz nor Lee’s office responded immediately for comment.
Update 4:00 p.m.
Cruz spokesman Sean Rushton said in an email: “He had a previous commitment that went long. He was planning to go to the caucus meeting but that was canceled last minute and he didn’t make lunch. Sen. Cruz has made clear that there is no reason we should default on the debt and he will continue working to seek meaningful relief from Obamacare for all Americans.”
In a Saturday night statement, Sen. Ted Cruz once again called on the House GOP to stand against Obamacare despite the government shutdown and looming default, contending they can still “win this debate.”
“House Republicans have heroically led this fight, and they should stand firm. Patience and courage and persistence is required, and will not come from the permanent beltway class,” the Texas Republican said. “So-called grand bargains historically have been neither grand nor a bargain — typically resulting in more debt, more spending, and more government.”
The statement comes in the aftermath of the news that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are once again trying to find a way out of a budget stalemate in the final days before the Treasury Department exhausts all options to avoid default.
The tide of public opinion is turning against the GOP’s gambit of insisting on Obamacare defunding in return for keeping the government open — even in states such as Utah, home to one of the move’s top champions, Sen. Mike Lee.
A Deseret News poll found that 56 percent of Utahans do not believe that shutting down the government is worth the continued fight to cut funding from Obamacare, while only 37 percent agreed that it is. An almost equal amount of people blamed Congressional Republicans as they did President Barack Obama, but the plurality of those polled — 41 percent — blamed both parties.
Lee, along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has spearheaded the effort to tie government funding to a dismantling of the nation’s health care law, much to the chagrin of establishment Republicans who are worried about the party being blamed for the shutdown and the economic consequences that could come with it.
That the maneuver polled so poorly with people in Utah just one week into a shutdown could be bad news for both Lee and the conservatives who are continuing to push Republicans to stand strong against a policy-rider-free continuing resolution.
The Deseret News, which is operated by the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, reported that the margin of error for the poll was 5 points.
The debate surrounding the government shutdown has been white hot in the Senate over the past few weeks, leading some lawmakers to complain about a lack of decorum.
Indeed, twice over the past two days, senators reminded their colleagues of Senate rules.
“I think we’ve all here in the Senate kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd, who was such a stickler for Senate procedure,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday morning on the Senate floor. “I think we’ve all let things get away from us a little bit. The Senate is a very special place with very particular rules.”
Longstanding Senate precedents tied to the Senate’s original rules require senators to speak through the presiding officer, as noted in “Riddick’s Senate Procedure.”
“Senators in debate should address each other through the Chair and in the third person,” the book of precedents explains.
Additionally, Senate Rule 19 states: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
“The latest plan came from the junior senator from Texas [and it] is to cherry pick parts of the government he likes,” Reid said. He added that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., “is following Cruz’s idea specifically. Sen. Cruz is now joint speaker. He lectures the House on occasion, as he does people over here.
Reid’s reference quickly drew criticism, particularly because Cruz was not on the floor at the time to defend himself. Full story
As the House reconvened Tuesday to consider stopgap appropriations resolutions for Veterans Affairs and museums in D.C. including the Smithsonian, Senate Democratic leaders took to the floor to ridicule the latest gambit.
The House also brought up a measure to allow the D.C. government to use local revenues.
The House VA plan generally would revive program funding at fiscal 2013 levels through mid-December — in line with the expiration date of the various House-passed continuing resolutions.
Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee spoke to reporters after the Senate’s Friday vote on the CR (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah have been lobbying members of the House Republican Conference to band together and continue to push for a defunding of the Affordable Care Act, just days before a potential government shutdown.
The senators’ push is likely against the wishes of House Republican leaders, who have said they would like to avoid a shutdown.
Cruz confirmed at an impromptu Friday news conference that he has been in talks with House conservatives about resisting the efforts of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House leadership to pass a short-term stopgap spending bill without serious concessions from Democrats on the 2010 health care law.
“We have had numerous conversations with numerous members of the House, but at the end of the day, all 435 members of the House are elected by the people of their districts and each member of the House has a responsibility to listen to their constituents, to their people,” Cruz said, after the Senate voted to send a two-month CR without Obamacare language to the House. “I’m confident that if the House listens to the people, as it did last week, that it will continue to step forward and respond to suffering that is coming from Obamacare. It was striking today. It was sad to see Senate Democrats together turn a blind ear to all of the people who are suffering because of Obamacare.” Full story
Senate passage of the bill occurred as expected. First, 25 Republicans joined all members of the Democratic caucus in voting to limit debate on the measure — thereby killing an attempted filibuster by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and their allies. Sixty votes were needed. The final vote was 79-19; two Republicans did not vote.
The Senate voted 100-0 to take up the House-passed continuing resolution Wednesday, while Sen. Ted Cruz indicated a willingness to accelerate the timetable for the more important vote to cut off debate on the bill.
The Texas Republican has long said that the real test will come on the vote to limit debate on the underlying bill, after which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could get the simple majority vote to strike defunding of the health care law.
If all the debate time is used, that would come on Saturday, although Cruz seems to be expressing a new willingness to truncate the debate time. At the end of his marathon floor talk Wednesday, he floated a series of consent agreements that could shorten the dayslong timeline for final Senate approval of a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown next week.
Though it is unclear whether leaders will accept Cruz’s offers, the fact that Cruz moved at all from his original position that the Senate should take up full debate time to Sunday could mark progress toward avoiding a shutdown. Many, including most Senate Republicans, view government shutdown as an unavoidable outcome unless the GOP cedes debate time. On Wednesday morning, Cruz offered to open debate on the House-approved continuing resolution by unanimous consent as long as the majority agreed to hold the vote to cut off debate on Friday, so more people might pay attention to it. Full story
The Golden Gavel (Courtesy Senate Historian’s Office)
For every moment Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has spent on the floor protesting the president’s health care law, there has been a Democrat in the Senate chamber chair, presiding and listening to him speak.
An “honor” typically bestowed on the majority party’s freshmen, presiding over the chamber for new members is part education, part hazing, part contest to secure the “Golden Gavel,” a reward for presiding for more than 100 hours of a Senate session.
But at times like these — Cruz’s nearly daylong talk, Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster over domestic surveillance — presiding over the chamber is a marathon-scheduled, front-row seat to the closest the Senate gets to the version of the chamber romanticized in Jimmy Stewart movies, where filibusters aren’t just procedural votes requiring 41 members to register their opposition.
So without further ado, a list of senators who were in the chamber (while you were sleeping): Full story
Sen. Ted Cruz compared the fight against Obamacare to the battle against Nazi Germany and mused on the intimidating nature of the moon. The Texas Republican talked about the deliciousness of White Castle mini burgers, how he doesn’t know Ashton Kutcher personally, and how he is a coward when it comes to wearing boots versus comfortable shoes. And he found time to read some bedtime stories to his daughters.
Niels Lesniewski has covered the Senate for CQ Roll Call since January 2010, and more recently as a staff writer and resident procedure guru for Roll Call. Niels holds degrees in both government and theater but sometimes can't tell the difference between the two. @nielslesniewski
Meredith Shiner has covered Senate leadership, legislation and everything in between for Roll Call since joining in June 2011, having previously covered Congress and national politics for Politico. @meredithshiner