For the last few weeks, House Speaker John Boehner has been trying to find a way to convince his caucus to vote for a bill that keeps the government open after Sept. 30 without picking a fight over Obamacare. But a minority of his caucus has been insisting on defunding Obamacare, egged on by outside conservative groups and a handful of far-right Republican Senators, most importantly Ted Cruz (Texas).
This has been pretty annoying for a lot of House Republican members and staff. Jonathan Strong and Andrew Stiles of National Review got an anecdote out of a closed Republican Study Committee meeting yesterday:
Max Pappas, an aide to Texas senator Ted Cruz who was on hand, rose to argue that in the event the House and President Obama were at odds when government funding expired, Republicans could pass a bill to fund the troops and other core priorities. At that point, a woman rose, identifying herself as a staffer to a Texas Republican. Pappas, she said, was “not dealing in reality” and making everyone else’s life difficult. The staffer, whom two GOP sources identified as working for Representative John Culberson of Texas, went on to decry Cruz for holding events in Culberson’s district and telling his constituents that defunding Obamacare would be “easy.”
This is a key aspect of the Cruz-driven defund Obamacare push. With in the Senate, Cruz is essentially irrelevant. Any budget deal that comes out of there will be struck between majority Democrats and a number of more practically-minded Republicans, like Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).
The only way he can exercise power is as an interloper in House Republican business — and his presence there is not wholeheartedly welcomed.
One senior House Republican aide complained to Business Insider that Cruz wasn’t coordinating with House Republicans even as he tried to drive the legislation that would come out of the House, and that he didn’t seem to have an endgame beyond President Obama sitting in the Rose Garden and signing a bill to undo his key legislative accomplishment.
And it’s not like Cruz has most House Republicans on his side. If you believe the press accounts, there are 30 or 40 House Republicans who won’t vote for a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare. With 30 defections, Speaker John Boehner can’t get what he desperately wants: 217 Republican votes for a bill that protects his key spending priority (maintaining low spending levels from sequestration) while avoiding a fight over Obamacare.
But if 30 to 40 House Republicans won’t vote for a CR that funds Obamacare, that means 190 to 200 of them would vote for such a CR. People talk about the “radicalized House GOP” but on this particular issue, most House Republicans aren’t radicalized. They’ve been dragged into this fight, unwillingly, by Cruz. And that’s why they’re so irritated.