House Republicans, meet Sen. Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz, House Republicans.
Given the surprise expressed by some House members at the Texas senator’s approach to the defunding of Obamacare, perhaps an introduction was in order.
A few dozen House members Wednesday morning successfully coerced a reluctant Speaker John Boehner into tying the Obamacare language to a must-pass government funding bill. This came after weeks of television ads featuring Cruz and fellow Senate Republican Mike Lee advocating exactly that plan, regardless of the consequences.
Yet not long after Boehner’s announcement came a statement from Cruz commending House Republicans, but also warning: “Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so. At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.”
Got that? House Republicans did. After imploring them to act, Cruz essentially conceded that he could not realistically accomplish anything in the Senate, and therefore it was all on the House’s shoulders. Great work guys! Keep that finger in the dike, and don’t let us down!
Reaction from those House Republicans was swift and, well, more than a little bit tart.
Tim Griffin of Arkansas offered this tweet: “so far Sen Rs are good at getting Facebook likes, and townhalls, not much else. Do something.” (This was later deleted.)
Georgia Rep. Tom Price had this: “House Republicans are turning words into action to defund #Obamacare. Ball will be in the Senate’s court.”
Perhaps those in the House had not been paying much attention to Cruz, who came to prominence within weeks of taking office this year by suggesting that Chuck Hagel, then the defense secretary nominee and a former GOP senator himself — might have taken money from the North Koreans.
Not long after, Arizona Sen. John McCain included Cruz among a group in Congress he considered “wacko birds.” Since then, Cruz has become better known for his visits to early presidential primary states than for working with fellow senators on legislation.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Cruz did thank House Republicans for sticking their necks out, and deflected questions about his statement. “Americans don’t care about petty political bickering in Washington,” he said.
For his part, Boehner would not specifically address Cruz at his own news conference, but he did say: “It’s time for them to pick up the mantle and get the job done.”
S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR’s Washington Desk.