Cruz’s Rallying Cry: ‘Don’t Blink’

Photograph by Brandon Wade/Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting hosted by Heritage Action For America at the Hilton Anatole on August 20, 2013 in Dallas.

In Washington, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s bid to shut down the federal government unless President Barack Obama agrees to defund his own signature health law is seen as folly and dangerous — and that’s the view among leaders of Cruz’s own Republican party.

Back home in Texas, it makes perfect sense to Cruz’s supporters.

Cruz was treated as something between folk hero and rock star in Dallas as he headlined a stop on the Heritage Action for America’s “Defund ObamaCare” tour. A ballroom at the Hilton Anatole filled with well more than 1,500 supporters yesterday — Republicans, ostensibly, though they seemed as little enamored with their own party as with Obama.

The crowd cheered and applauded Cruz, the state’s junior senator, as he explained how he would force Obama to shutter the Affordable Care Act before it takes full effect on January 1.

“We have to do something conservatives haven’t done in a long time. We have to win the argument!” Cruz told the room.

Cue raucous applause.

Cruz wants the House to pass legislation continuing funding of the government past October that prohibits spending money to implement the health law, which will begin extending insurance coverage to millions of Americans now lacking it next year. Under his scenario, at least 41 Senate Republicans — enough to sustain a filibuster — would then refuse to vote for a spending bill in their chamber with money for the health law.

The Senate would then be forced to pass the House bill and Obama would have to sign it, or the government would shut down — and the blame would be on the president, in Cruz’s view.

Many of Cruz’s Republican colleagues in Washington view his strategy as politically perilous, fearing their party will take the blame for any shutdown, as it did in a budget standoff with former President Bill Clinton in 1995 and 1996. Not Cruz’s supporters.

“If you have an impasse, one side or the other has to blink,” Cruz told the room. “How do we win this fight?”

“DON’T BLINK,” Cruz’s crowd, which leaned elderly and white, shouted in unison with the senator.

Cruz was interrupted three times by supporters of the health law. Each time, he handled them delicately, even urging the crowd to let them speak until they were ushered from the room by police and hotel managers.

Cruz took no questions from the crowd, other than disarming responses to his opponents.

“He’s doing what other statesmen need to do,” Gary Bennett, 58, a member of the executive committee of the Republican Party in Ellis County, south of Dallas, said after the rally. “The government is out of control.”

Bennett called the Affordable Care Act “socialized medicine” and said: “This plan will take away our prosperity.”

Outside the Hilton Anatole, about three dozen people organized by the advocacy groups Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care protested Cruz’s remarks. A sign in front of the hotel read “Cruz Care = No Care.”

 

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