POSTED: Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 7:55pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 9:07am
CNN — Back in his home state after the reopening of the government, Sen. Ted Cruz didn't rule out the idea of again staging the strategy that helped lead to the 16-day partial shutdown and bashed his fellow Senate Republicans for not trying hard enough to dismantle Obamacare.
The Texas Republican, in an exclusive interview with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash in San Antonio, was unapologetic for fighting to defund President Obama's health care law in the face of outsized odds, saying he doesn't work for the "party bosses" in Washington.
Asked whether it bothered him that so many Republican senators expressed outrage at his approach - one that involved a 21-hour talkathon on the Senate floor - the first-year senator said, "not remotely."
"I work for 26 million Texans. That's my job, to fight for them. I don't work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for the people of Texas, and I fight for them," he said in the interview that aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Ted Cruz, back in Texas, rails against fellow Senate Republicans
"Look, the reason people are frustrated all over the country is that far too many people get elected and they think they're there to be part of the club," he continued.
Bash added that one of Cruz's colleagues told her that Republicans in the Senate strongly opposed the senator's attempt, with one of them saying "it was like an intervention" when they privately tried to convince him to back down.
"They told me that you really didn't flinch," Bash said.
But Cruz said he gave the same answer to his Republican colleagues behind closed doors as he gives in front of the cameras.
"What I say privately to my colleagues is the same thing I say publicly," he said. "And you know what's interesting? Virtually every person in that room that was criticizing what (Utah Sen.) Mike Lee and I were doing would have said very different things if a camera was in this room. Because what they're telling their constituents is very different from what they're saying behind closed doors."
Cruz was well received at San Antonio event on Saturday. He entered to a standing ovation and his remarks were met with cheers of "We love Ted Cruz."
"It was tremendously uplifting. It's really good to be home," Cruz said, joking that "it's kind of like DC, except in D.C. they're yelling different things."
House Republicans followed Cruz's rallying cry to attach anti-Obamacare provisions to must-pass spending legislation, but the Democratic-controlled Senate refused to take up anything but a "clean" short-term spending bill, meaning one without anything related to health care.
House Republicans first passed legislation that would defund the law and then a bill that would delay it. Softening some more, they passed a bill that would delay just the individual mandate. But the Senate, with the backing of the White House, continued to reject the legislation, demanding only a clean bill.
With no agreement, the government shutdown took effect October 1.
A defeated GOP wants to unite, move on, fight another day
Even though Republicans are the minority in the Senate, Cruz said, the shutdown could have been avoided if those in his party united to support their colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill.
"Imagine if Senate Republicans had come together, had united and stood side-by-side with House Republicans and had said, 'we're with the American people. We want to fund our government. We want to fund every aspect of our government, but we want to answer the American people who are being hurt because of Obamacare,' " he said. "We would have ended up with a very different result."
Republican Sen. John McCain, however, said Sunday on "State of the Union" that the approach "was a fool's errand to start with."
"It was never going to succeed," he added.
Ultimately, the House and Senate passed legislation last week that would fund the government through January 15 and extend the debt limit through February 7. In the meantime, select members of the House and Senate will meet to hammer out a long-term budget plan.
"The deal this week was a lousy deal for the American people," Cruz argued.
While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and McCain have ruled out another government shutdown in the near future, Cruz didn't take the option off the table.
"There will be time enough to talk about specific strategies, specific tactics," he told Bash. "There are a lot politicians in Washington who want to put Obamacare behind us. Say OK, fine, no more. No more discussing Obamacare. And you know what? The American people are not satisfied with that."
Some Republican lawmakers argue that rather than taking an aggressive approach against the federal health care law, they just should let it fail on its own, as many of them believe it will.
But Cruz said that was an ill-conceived tactic.
"There are some Republican gray-beards in Washington who make the point 'Let's just let this collapse ... and then Republicans will benefit,' " Cruz said, adding that he "profoundly" disagrees with the approach.
"I consider that theory the 'Bad Samaritan' theory. Basically, inflict a bunch of harm on the American people and hope we benefit politically from it. What a terrible, cynical approach. I am not interested in seeing the American people suffer just because my party might benefit politically if they blame the Democrats for the foolish policies that have been imposed."
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