Ted Cruz, Harry Reid Spar Over Obamacare, Brinkmanship

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:00pm

Sen. Ted Cruz and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opened the Senate’s battle over defunding Obamacare with a tense but cordial tussle on the Senate floor Monday.

Cruz, the Texas Republican who pushed the House GOP into adding defunding language to its bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, sought to blame Reid, and by extension Democrats, for causing a possible government shutdown come Oct. 1. And he did it after baiting Reid into objecting to two requests that would have favored Republicans in the debate.

“Five minutes ago, the Senate could have acted to prevent a government shutdown,” Cruz said after the interaction. And, he  lamented, “there is a tendency in this town toward brinkmanship.”

Cruz offered two unanimous-consent requests — one to to clear the House-passed continuing resolution with its ban on Obamacare money intact and another to require any amendment votes to clear a 60-vote threshold. Reid objected to both, but not before noting that Cruz’s stunt interrupted his afternoon schedule.

After Cruz offered to propose his UC requests sooner, Reid thanked him for getting “right to the point.” The Nevada Democrat went on to outline his objections to defunding the 2010 health care law and to House language on the debt ceiling that Democrats derisively call the “Pay China First” bill.

Reid also criticized Cruz’s attempt to set an artificial 60-vote threshold on any amendment votes. “I really try to follow Senate rules,” Reid said. “Sometimes they’re obnoxious. … But the Senate has enough of these arbitrary hurdles as it is.”

Cruz’s actions come after he was roundly criticized last week for saying that Reid had the votes to strike the defunding portion from the House bill. Since then, he has called on Senate Republicans to filibuster the House-passed continuing resolution unless Democrats allow the defunding language to remain. But as of now, Reid will likely be able to strip that language out using a simple majority vote.