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Cruz, Lee Lobbying House GOP, but to What End?

Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee spoke to reporters after the Senate's Friday vote on the CR (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee spoke to reporters after the Senate's Friday vote on the CR (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah have been lobbying members of the House Republican Conference to band together and continue to push for a defunding of the Affordable Care Act, just days before a potential government shutdown.

The senators’ push is likely against the wishes of House Republican leaders, who have said they would like to avoid a shutdown.

Cruz confirmed at an impromptu Friday news conference that he has been in talks with House conservatives about resisting the efforts of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House leadership to pass a short-term stopgap spending bill without serious concessions from Democrats on the 2010 health care law.

“We have had numerous conversations with numerous members of the House, but at the end of the day, all 435 members of the House are elected by the people of their districts and each member of the House has a responsibility to listen to their constituents, to their people,” Cruz said, after the Senate voted to send a two-month CR without Obamacare language to the House. “I’m confident that if the House listens to the people, as it did last week, that it will continue to step forward and respond to suffering that is coming from Obamacare. It was striking today. It was sad to see Senate Democrats together turn a blind ear to all of the people who are suffering because of Obamacare.”

A conference call Thursday night with Cruz, Lee and conservative House Republicans was first reported by the National Review.

Other GOP senators seem to have little opinion about what their disorganized House colleagues should do now that the Senate has acted. Sen. Tom Coburnof Oklahoma told reporters before votes that Senate Republicans should let House Republicans do their thing, just as House Republicans should leave Senate Republicans alone to work out their legislative prerogatives.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate GOP leadership and former House GOP leader, expressed a similar sentiment, suggesting Cruz’s counsel might not be taken well by his colleagues across the Dome.

“I would say there were occasions when senators gave advice to House members about how to vote or what they should be doing, and generally that’s not very well received,” said Blunt, who earlier Friday made his own visit to the House floor to chat up members. “I have no particular reason to believe that Sen. Cruz talking to House members is a unique thing to happen, but it’s usually not very well received.”

The key remaining question is whether Cruz or Lee have sway with enough House Republicans to actually make a difference. Cruz, in particular, irritated many House conservatives when he went on a media blitz last week and accused House Republicans of “lacking courage” in the current spending fight.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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