Ted Cruz really does not want you to get health insurance.
Through a combination of snark and the type of false bravado that might trick his constituents into thinking that the Canadian-born Texas Senator actually was at the Alamo, Cruz, Utah Senator Mike Lee, and the Tea Party were able to convince the House of Representatives to pass a resolution to continue funding for the government but deny the necessary funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. This represents the last chance for the wave of teabaggers who came into Washington promising to oppose the legislation at all costs to accomplish their goal and kill the bill.
Eric Cantor, previously my least favorite member of Congress, had initially suggested that the House pass and send to the Senate a stand-alone bill defunding Obamacare. This would have been a tough vote for red-state Democrats up for reelection and an easy vote for most Republicans. But that wasn’t high-stakes enough for Cruz: it would have easily been vetoed by the President and wouldn’t have gotten him a full calendar of talk show appearances. So instead he suggested that the measure be tied to the resolution funding the government. Failure to pass a funding resolution means the first government shut down since 1996. The House of Representatives passed that resolution last Friday.
Cruz has made a career of denying health care to those whose parents couldn’t pull quite as hard on their bootstraps as his did. His father began his political life as a supporter of Fidel Castro. After fleeing to college in the United States and making his fortune starting an oil company, he swung hard to the right to become a Tea Party hero and the father of the worse Senator since McCarthy. If that comparison sounds dramatic, you should know that it came from Senator John McCain, who, according to an aide, “f***ing hates Cruz.” By all accounts, he is not alone in his dislike for the Texan who wandered the hallways of his Princeton dorm room in a paisley bathrobe and who at Harvard Law refused to study with anyone who hadn’t attended Harvard, Princeton, or Yale (Sorry, Middlebury Republicans hoping to someday work with him. You should have gone to a better school).
Cruz – who may be the least polite Canadian to ever cross the border – has an oil painting in his office which depicts him arguing his first ever case before the Supreme Court as Texas’ solicitor general. He describes the giant painting of himself as reminding him to be humble because he lost the case 9-0, although that might have had less to do with his arguments and more to do with the fact that in the case he was arguing that Texas be able to void a legal settlement where it promised to improve the health care services it offered to impoverished children. Apparently it was one of his proudest moments.
Now that Cruz’s measure has made its way to the Senate, he has said that he will ask – nicely, in the Canadian fashion – Majority Leader Harry Reid to require that an amendment restoring funding for Obamacare to the funding resolution need 60 votes – more than the normal 51-vote threshold for amendments. If not, he says that he will filibuster the entirety of the bill that he himself suggested, shutting down the government. Reid, who grew up in rural Nevada and used to box for fun, seems unlikely to comply with such a request, polite or otherwise.
When Ted Cruz runs for President, he can presumably say that he voted for defunding Obamacare before he voted against it.
If Democrats can get six votes for the resolution, the shutdown will not happen. Since McCain seems to be motivated almost entirely by who he dislikes at a given moment, it is likely that they have at least one. Polls show that the majority of the public do not believe that turning off the lights on government – sending children home from preschools funded by HeadStart, furloughing government employees, halting the processing of paperwork and closing National Parks all at a cost of hundreds of million dollars per day – is a smart idea. Cruz is more than smart enough to realize the effect that his showboating might have. Not to mention the fact that even a total government shutdown would fail to delay the implementation of Obamacare. But good government has never been a consideration for the junior Senator from Texas who has never proposed nor passed an actual bill – only the brightness of his personal star and the shininess of his ostrich-skin cowboy boots.