After four years of fighting over Obamacare, Sen. Ted Cruz has finally figured out how to kill the law: just do it. "We have to do something that conservatives haven't done in a long time: We've got to stand up and win the argument," Cruz told attendees of Heritage Action's nine-city defund-Obamacare-or-shutdown-the-government tour in Dallas Tuesday night. Many of his GOP colleagues think Cruz's strategy is the best way to lose the argument.
Several Republicans have pointed out that President Obama would never sign a bill that defunds Obamacare, even if the Democrats in the Senate miraculously passed it. Even an attendee of the Heritage tour said so! On on the first stop of the tour in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Monday, an audience member asked Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator who now heads Heritage, why pass a bill defunding Obamacare "when we know that President Obama won't sign it." DeMint responded, "Well, we don't know that, do we?" DeMint's tour takes him through cities in mostly conservative states — Tampa, Nashville, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Columbus — and will bring with him a sense of urgency for conservatives that certainly won't hurt Heritage's fundraising. DeMint told his town hall on Tuesday, "This may be the last, best chance to stop this bill."
Cruz agreed: "A significant amount of Republicans assume, with an impasse, that President Obama will never ever ever give up his principles, so Republicans have to give up theirs... If you have an impasse, you know -- one side or the other has to blink. How do we win this fight? Don't blink." Cruz tells The National Review that Republicans who disagree have Clinton PTSD — they're "haunted by ghosts of shutdowns past."
As The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump and Commentary's Pete Wehner point out, Cruz believes exactly the opposite thing when it comes to impeaching the president. In that case, no effort to "win the argument" will overcome the fact that Democrats have a majority in the Senate. At a Republican Party dinner on Monday night, Cruz told a questioner that "To successfully impeach a president you need the votes in the U.S. Senate." Wehner writes that Cruz "would rather play footsie with fringe theories than to challenge them." It might help the senator's career, but it hurts Republicans, he says.
"...Cruz’s approach — ridiculing Republicans who aren’t willing to shut down the government over ObamaCare here, wishing impeachment were possible there — is harmful to conservatism. Second, there’s nothing principled in what Senator Cruz is doing. He is, in fact, playing a cynical game. "
Wehner is far from the only conservative criticizing Cruz's plan. "Shutting down the government is the one way that Republicans can turn Obamacare from a political advantage to a political disadvantage in 2014,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres told Politico. John McCain mocked Cruz's complaint that Republicans were caving in July, saying sarcastically, "I think he’s right. I’m scared and I surrender." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this month, "I'm for stopping Obamacare, but shutting down the government will not stop Obamacare."
But Cruz will rise above all that. "I can’t control what other senators choose to do," Cruz tells The Washington Post. "More than a few senators, Democrat and Republican, have made the decision to throw rocks at me and to publicly insult me. I have not reciprocated. I don’t intend to reciprocate."