GOP Rift Deepens After Government Shutdown Debacle
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The Fiscal Times
October 20, 2013

The Republican blame game over the party’s politically disastrous mishandling of the government shutdown  and forced surrender to President Obama last week continued to play out over the weekend.

Seasoned GOP veterans including Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah and John McCain of Arizona said the Tea-Party inspired strategy of trying to use the 16-day government shutdown to derail or defund Obamacare was a serious miscalculation  that could undermine GOP efforts to retake control of the Senate or win the White House in 2016.

“Let’s face it: It was not a good maneuver,” Hatch, the senior Senate Republican and a supporter of  the deal that finally ended the shutdown and averted a default on U.S. debt  last Wednesday night, told the New York Times.

But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) --  unrepentant in helping to foment the government crisis – used two nationally televised appearances on Sunday to blame weak-willed Senate Republicans for failing to back up House Republicans’ repeated demands that the administration postpone implementation of Obamacare as the price for reopening the government.

“The reason this deal, the lousy deal was reached, is because unfortunately Senate Republicans made the choice not to support House Republicans," Cruz said in an interview with ABC's "This Week," adding later: "I think that was unfortunate. I think it was unfortunate that you saw multiple members of the Senate Republicans going on television attacking House conservatives, attacking the effort to defund Obamacare, saying it cannot win, it's a fool’s errand, we will lose, this must fail. That is a recipe for losing the fight, and it's a shame."

While other senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have ruled out a second government shutdown if Democrats and Republicans fail to reach a budget compromise late this year, Cruz said he is willing to repeat the last three weeks.

"I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare," Cruz said. "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 has used his opposition to the Affordable Care Act and willingness to push the Treasury to the brink of a default on its debt to galvanize the support of the far right and remarkably rocket to the head of the list of potential Republican presidential candidates after serving in the Senate for only ten months.

And while he is giving many GOP rank and file and party elders heartburn, he looms as a political hero back home, he is rapidly building up a list of wealthy financial backers and generating attention with frequent speeches on the conservative speakers’ circuit.

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This helps to explain why the 42-year old freshmen is so brash and eager to break  the long standing unwritten political rule – dating back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s --  of not publicly speaking ill of your political colleagues.

Cruz said on Sunday that he did “not remotely” care whether he offends his Senate GOP colleagues, “because the people I work for “are the 26 million people of Texas.

“That’s my job to fight for them,” he said in an interview aired on CNN’s “State of the Union.” I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for the people of Texas and I fight for them.”

"We didn't win this battle, but I am encouraged that we have demonstrated when the American people stand up, the House of Representatives will listen, and I hope in time the Senate will listen also," he told CNN’s Dana Bash.

He also told ABC reporter Jon Karl that he didn’t care whether his fellow Senators despised him – which by all indications many of them do. During a recent closed-door luncheon meeting of Senate Republicans, many lambasted Cruz for leading them into a government shutdown with no viable exist strategy.

"There's an old saying that 'Politics, it ain't beanbag,'" Cruz said. "And, you know, I'm not serving in office because I desperately needed 99 new friends in the U.S. Senate. Given the choice between being reviled in Washington, D.C., and appreciated in Texas, or reviled in Texas and appreciated in Washington, I would take the former 100 out of 100 times."

McCain, the GOP’s unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential nominee, offered a back-handed compliment to Cruz, saying that the Texas Republican likely would be “very attractive to many in the conservative base – but that alone would not make him a successful candidate.

"The question is," McCain added, "will our party be able to field a winning presidential candidate and vice president so that we can win the election rather than – unfortunately, the record of the last couple has not been what we want it to be.”

Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.