What a difference two weeks make. After speaking for 21 hours on the Senate floor a few weeks ago, on Wednesday Sen. Ted Cruz kept his capitulation comments to under 10 minutes. He made sure, though, that they included a few digs at his colleagues in Congress’ upper chamber.
Cruz, R-Texas, is the senator who helped steer the nation’s government into a shutdown, now at 16 days, by holding forth on the Senate floor for 21 hours that ended Sept. 25.
Cruz was less chatty when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., worked out a deal Wednesday to reopen government and keep the nation from default on its debt.
But the Texas Tea Party senator still was defiant, non-apologetic and disdainful of Washington colleagues.
“When the effort to defund Obamacare began, official Washington scoffed. They scoffed that the American people would rise up. They scoffed that the House of Representatives would do anything and they scoffed that the Senate would do anything,” he said.
Cruz said his counterparts in the House of Representatives, who attached various demands to legislation to keep the government funded and open, “engaged in a profile in courage.”
By contrast, the Senate chose to stay with the “traditional approach of the Washington establishment of maintaining the status quo and doing nothing to respond to the suffering Obamacare is causing millions of Americans.” Obamacare refers to the three-year-old health care insurance law known as the Affordable Care Act.
Some said the Cruz-led upending of the congressional process was an exercise that yielded nothing, while hurting the economy by forcing furloughs and putting America’s credit rating at risk. But Cruz said it was a path forward for Americans who want their government to listen to them.
“The politics of Washington at the end of the day doesn’t matter. What the focus should be is on making Washington, D.C., listen to the American people and respond to the very real harms that Obamacare is causing the American people,” Cruz said.
The Senate agreement Reid and McConnell worked out would fund government through mid-January and allow the government to borrow through early February.
Cruz said the Senate deal provided no relief to Americans “hurting because of Obamacare.”
The bigger obstacle for sealing a deal is in the House, where conservatives have steered much of the decision-making on the budget and debt ceiling negotiations.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., took a poke at Cruz in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, saying that the lesson of the more than two-week ordeal is that however enthusiastic lawmakers are about their views, “we don’t hold our government hostage and the credit of our government” hostage.
Cruz has rankled some of his GOP colleagues, who excoriated him in a behind closed-doors meeting as the shutdown began dragging on. Cruz had been dismissive of polls showing his party was increasingly being blamed for the shutdown.
On Tuesday’s “Morning Joe” television news show, former Florida Rep. Joe Scarborough dared Cruz to block a fix of the shutdown and debt crisis and accused him of using America as his own political backdrop.
But Cruz also has become more popular among conservatives and won a straw poll at a meeting of conservatives in Washington last weekend.
Cruz ranked as the sixth most-searched politician last month, according to Google Trends and he is the only one among the top 10 in that list who is not a current or past world leader.