WASHINGTON — Republican members of Congress offered glimpses of rifts within their party in the wake of the government shutdown Sunday, suggesting that raw feelings might hobble progress on other pressing issues.
The leader of the conservative Republican opposition to President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, which triggered the government shutdown, freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz remained defiant. Cruz said he would keep focusing on Obamacare in the coming months, despite calls from the White House and members of both parties of Congress to take up issues such as immigration reform.
On two talk shows, Cruz did not rule out another push for a shutdown in January, when continued funding for the government would once again require congressional authorization. “I would do anything and I will continue to do anything I can to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Cruz said on ABC’s “This Week.” “What I intend to do is continue standing with the American people to work to stop Obamacare, because it isn’t working, it’s costing people’s jobs, and it’s taking away their healthcare.”
Cruz interpreted the bottom-of-the-barrel poll ratings for Congress that came out last week as a sign that Americans wanted Congress to work harder to dismantle Obamacare, rather than as a repudiation of its priorities. He sharply criticized his fellow Senate Republicans for agreeing to end the shutdown.
“I think the House Republicans marched out on principle to say we’re listening to the people who are hurting because of “Obamacare.” And I wish that Senate Republicans had come in like the cavalry to support them,” Cruz said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Instead … they made a decision not just to not support the House Republicans, but to come in like an air force and dive-bomb them.”
Other, more senior Republican senators agreed with the need to halt healthcare reform. But they took issue with shutting down the government again in 2014 as a negotiating ploy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the GOP would do “everything possible” to repeal the Affordable Care Act but said “everything” did not include another shutdown.
“A number of us were saying back in July that this strategy could not and would not work, and of course, it didn’t. So there’ll not be another government shutdown, you can count on that,” McConnell said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
McConnell declined to criticize Cruz, whose great popularity with the GOP’s conservative base has amplified his clout, despite his recent arrival on the national stage. But other GOP senators such as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina were more pointed about the impact of Cruz’s approach.
“I think the tactical choice that he embraced hurt our party,” Graham said on “Face the Nation.”
“After this debacle called ‘the shutdown,’ ... our brand name’s at the lowest ever. Obamacare actually got a bump in polling, and we got in the way of a disastrous rollout.”
Graham added: “The shutdown should be in our rearview mirror as Republicans [say], ‘Don’t do this again, Ted.’ ”