4 questions with Ted Cruz on defunding Obamacare

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
Font Size:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been among the most vocal Republican senators in pushing the latest strategy to defund Obamacare.

“Now is the best time,” Cruz said in an email interview with The Daily Caller.

Using this strategy, which is also favored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, lawmakers would refuse to vote for a continuing resolution to keep funding the federal government unless President Obama’s healthcare law is defunded as part of the legislation.

Under current law, the government is funded until Sept. 30, meaning a continuing resolution needs to be passed to keep the government from shutting down.

But inside the Republican Party, many lawmakers object to the strategy, saying it gives false hope because it simply won’t work. Without having control of the Senate or the presidency, such legislation would be impossible to pass.

The Daily Caller attempted to have a high-profile Republican on both sides of the debate answer four of the same questions about the strategy. While Cruz agreed to answer questions, no Republican that TheDC contacted on the other side of the issue would agree to do the same.

Through spokespeople, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and former White House aide Karl Rove all declined to participate. All have spoken out against the strategy.

Here are the four questions posed to Cruz by The Daily Caller:

What precisely is your strategy to defund Obamacare and what’s your best argument for employing this method?

Cruz: Now is the best time: There is bipartisan agreement that Obamacare isn’t working. It’s killing jobs, causing more and more Americans to be driven into part-time employment, causing employers to drop health insurance and dramatically increasing health insurance premiums. Even the unions — President Obama’s most reliable allies — are jumping ship.

The Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, the most important check we have on an overreaching executive. Now is the best chance we have to exercise this power in order to defund Obamacare. It can be done as part of passing the Continuing Resolution (CR) — a piece of legislation that funds the government and must be renewed by September 30th.

The Continuing Resolution gives us real leverage to defund Obamacare. Fighting this fight won’t be easy, but it’s now or never. President Obama’s strategy is simple: on January 1, the subsidies kick in. President Obama wants to get as many Americans addicted to the subsidies because he knows that in modern times, no major entitlement has ever been implemented and then unwound. That’s why the administration announced that it won’t enforce eligibility requirements–essentially encouraging fraud and “liar loans”–because that way the most people possible will get addicted to the sugar.

To stop that from happening, the House should pass a new Continuing Resolution to fund the entire federal government except Obamacare. The House should include a rider in that bill that explicitly prohibits any federal dollars – discretionary and  mandatory – from being spent on it. Republicans control the House, and have already voted some 40 times to repeal Obamacare, so if we stand together, we can do this.

Then the bill comes to the Senate. Republicans need just 41 votes to prevent Democrats from passing legislation that funds Obamacare – 45 Republicans in the Senate have already voted to repeal Obamacare, so if we stand together, we can do this also.

At that point, we simply have to continue to stand together and not blink. If Republicans are truly against Obamacare, they will not vote to fund it.

While the ultimate goal is to repeal the law in its entirety, defunding is a crucial step so we can stop the law from being implemented before Americans get hooked on the subsidies. We cannot just wait for Republicans to take back the Senate to repeal the law. We owe it to Americans to prevent as much of it from being implemented as possible right now.

If we hold 41 Republicans in the Senate or 218 Republicans in the House, we can win the fight because no Continuing Resolution can pass without our support.

And, for any Republicans who disagree, the following question is revealing: what is your alternative? All the various suggestions (delaying the individual mandate, removing the IRS from Obamacare) are fine and good — but none of them can happen before January 1. The House can have a symbolic vote on all of them, but Harry Reid will kill every one.

The only way to force passage is to condition the CR on defunding Obamacare.  Otherwise, the so-called alternatives don’t stop the subsidies on January 1; and, if it’s correct that, once implemented, it will never be unwound (and no Republican has effectively refuted that premise), then not fighting on the CR is effectively saying we surrender and will allow Obamacare to become a permanent feature of our economy, hurting jobs and growth in perpetuity.

Explain specifically how your strategy actually has a realistic chance of being successful?

Cruz: Republicans have the votes to make this possible. Moreover, the American public is increasingly  behind the effort — winning this fight is dependent on Americans standing up and holding their elected officials accountable to doing what’s in the people’s best interests.

Americans realize that Obamacare hurts jobs and economic growth, by penalizing full-time employment and raising taxes. They realize that it won’t bring down costs, that it will create longer wait times and scarcity of health services. They recognize it for the disaster it is and they don’t want it.

We can get the votes we need to defund Obamacare if the grassroots rise up in huge numbers to force their elected officials to do the right thing before late September. If this happens and if Republicans have the political will to stand firm for their principles, we can succeed. That is why I am spending the next 50 days reaching out to conservatives, activists, and citizens to get them involved.

President Obama wants to grant a waiver from Obamacare for big corporations and for Members of Congress — but not for hard-working American families. That position is indefensible.

If the American people get mobilized by the millions, Congress will listen. Republicans will stand their ground. And Democrats will succumb to the pressure and agree to grant American families the same waiver President Obama has already granted giant corporations and Members of Congress. That’s how we win.

Your opponents argue your strategy won’t work because Republicans, without control of the White House or the Senate, do not have the votes. They say it’s simply dishonest to lead conservatives across the country to think it would. Opponents also say that Republicans will take the blame for any shutdown, thus harming your midterm chances. Your response?

Cruz: One thing is for sure: we lose 100 percent of the battles we don’t fight.

With divided government, either side can stop legislation. As a result, whoever is in the stronger position with no action has the advantage at the bargaining table. That’s why Republicans got such a lousy deal with the fiscal cliff — if nothing happened, the result was a massive tax increase on every American taxpayer…a result that President Obama was perfectly happy with. So he had all the leverage. With the continuing resolution, if Republicans stand together, we have the leverage.

President Obama may well choose to force a temporary partial government shutdown, rather than pass a CR that defunds Obamacare.  But, if that happens, what happens next?  One side or the other has to blink.

Why do people assume that President Obama and Democrats will never ever ever blink, and so Republicans must do so instead? If 41 Republicans stand together in the Senate and 218 in the House, we can insist that any Continuing Resolution does not fund Obamacare. We win by sticking to our principles longer than the Democrats stick to theirs.

And this fight doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Republicans win the fight by winning the argument: going to the American people and making the case that Obamacare is a “train wreck” that is killing jobs and hurting those who are struggling to climb the economic ladder. That’s a winning argument, if only we make it effectively.

In 2010, we ran on repealing Obamacare and won an electoral tsunami. In 2012, we ran a cautious campaign, barely mentioning Obamacare, and got walloped. The way you win, especially in an off-year election, is to stand for principle in way that mobilizes the American people to show up and vote. The way you lose is to stand for nothing and demoralize your supporters. Running away from this fight would do that.

Too many Republicans are obsessed with poll numbers and terrified of who takes the “blame.” Do the right thing, lead, and the politics will take care of itself.

Republicans will only take the “blame” if they fail to make the argument and let the Democrats define them. We want to fund government in full, without funding Obamacare. We have voted to do so. If Harry Reid and the Democrats are willing to shut down the government for a law that Americans don’t want, that’s their decision. And they should be held accountable.

We’ve seen shutdowns before, twice in 1995, and the world didn’t end. When House Republicans stood up to President Clinton, we had a partial temporary shutdown for 22 days. Social Security checks still kept coming, the military kept being paid, interest on the debt was satisfied, but non-essential government activities were temporarily suspended.

There was some political pain, to be sure, as Bill Clinton took a 2×4 to the House Republicans in the media, but look at the gains. As a result of Republicans standing together in 1995, Bill Clinton declared “the era of big government is over,” and we saw year after year of balanced budgets, welfare reform, and some of the most fiscally responsible policies Congress has ever produced. All because we didn’t surrender, we stood our ground.

How are those who disagree with you on the strategy distorting your views on this?

Cruz: Aside from the defeatist view that this can’t be won, addressed above, there are three significant misunderstandings:

A) Some, even among our allies, describe our proposal as “shutting down the government to defund Obamacare.” Such framing clearly tilts towards the Democrats. Our perspective is, we would pass a bill to fund the entire government except Obamacare; it is the President and his allies who have threatened to shut down the government to force Obamacare onto working families, even though its problems are manifest.

B) Another recurring line is that a recent Congressional Research Service report confirmed that a government shutdown would not, in itself, fully defund Obamacare. Of course not; no one has ever suggested it would. The point is, passing a CR that defunds Obamacare — that explicitly prohibits discretionary and mandatory spending — defunds Obamacare. That’s what this fight is all about.

C) Some have suggested this initiative would only defund Obamacare’s discretionary spending, while leaving in place the far larger mandatory spending. This is incorrect, as we can absolutely include language in the CR to defund Obamacare’s mandatory spending as well.

Follow Alex on Twitter