Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz believes that Friday’s procedural vote in the Senate over a spending bill that defunds Obamacare is the most important vote he and other lawmakers will take all year.
In a conference call on Thursday with journalists and bloggers, Cruz said: “In my opinion, the cloture vote tomorrow is the most important vote that I will have cast in the short nine months I have been in the Senate. I think it’s the most important vote any of my colleagues will cast this year.”
House Republicans passed a short-term spending bill — known as a continuing resolution on Friday — that keeps the government running for the rest of the year while simultaneously defunding President Obama’s unpopular health care law.
Cruz supports that legislation. But his strategy is complex: the senator says he will actually vote against “cloture” — which would let that bill inch closer to a vote in the Senate — on Friday because Senate majority leader Harry Reid has vowed to remove the defunding Obamacare language from the legislation.
According to that thinking, Republicans would refuse to vote to allow the bill to proceed to a vote until Reid agrees to bring up the House bill — including the defunding Obamacare language — for an up-or-down vote.
On the conference call, Cruz argued that a vote against cloture on Friday is a vote for defunding Obamacare.
“The vote that matters is the vote tomorrow on cloture,” Cruz said. “Any senator who votes yes on cloture tomorrow is voting to give Harry Reid the power to fully fund Obamacare. I will vote no on cloture tomorrow. That vote is the fight.”
Cruz said he is encouraging Republicans to join him, though he knows many currently oppose his strategy.
“Based on their public statements, a significant number of Senate Republicans currently intend to vote with Senate Republican leadership to support Harry Reid and the Democrats and to allow Harry Reid to fund Obamacare,” he said. “I hope by tomorrow, that’s no longer the case.”
“The first thing that has to happen is we have to unite Republicans,” Cruz said. “The second thing that has to happen is we have to start picking off Democrats. Until we unite Republicans, we will not succeed in picking off any Democrats. And right now, unfortunately, where the effort to defund Obamacare is running into its most significant obstacle is in working to unite Senate Republicans.”
Cruz made his pitch to senators still on the fence: “Whether Senate Republicans vote against giving Harry Reid the power to fund Obamacare will depend on whether Senate Republicans listen to their constituents. Every single Republican ran on fighting Obamacare. And I guarantee you, the constituents of every Senate Republican and — for that matter, every Senate Democrat — understand that Obamacare is a train wreck, it’s a nightmare, it’s not working and it’s hurting millions of Americans. And any senator who listens to his constituents will vote no on cloture tomorrow.”
Cruz has become the face of the defund-Obamacare strategy, pulling off a 21-hour long extended speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the topic Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I hope that over the course of this week, we have made some real progress in terms of focusing attention on Obamacare and what a disaster it has been for the American people,” Cruz said. “Obamacare is the biggest job killer in this country. Millions of Americans are facing the prospects of losing their jobs, or not being hired at all, are facing the prospects of being pushed forcibly into part-time work, or facing sky rocketing health insurance premiums and are facing the risks or the realities of losing their health-insurance.”
Asked if he’s gotten some sleep, Cruz laughed and said, “I have.”
Cruz also laid out his favored strategy if Reid successfully stops the defunding Obamacare movement in the Senate: he wants the House to pass smaller, continuing resolution bills so the government will keep running.
“If we defeat cloture tomorrow, and Harry Reid digs in and will not allow the Senate to move forward on any continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare, than I believe the House is in a position to stand its ground and to begin passing smaller continuing resolutions focusing on our most critical priorities,” he said.
For example, the House could pass a bill that continues to fund the military. That bill would then head to the Senate. Individual bills would keep the government running without funding Obamacare, Cruz said.
“Now it will speak volumes whether Reid is willing to kill smaller, more narrow continuing resolutions because he is so determined to push Obamacare on the American people,” he said.