Ted Cruz and the Tea Party's dangerous game of chicken - Macleans.ca

Ted Cruz and the Tea Party’s dangerous game of chicken

The Republican Party is again in the grip of hard-line activists


Populist wrath: The Calgary-born Sen. Cruz is the Tea Party’s latest de facto leader

Less than a year after losing the White House amid a flurry of hand-wringing and strategizing about how to appeal to a broader swath of the American public, the Republican Party is once again in the grip of hardline activists.

And, once again, they are careening toward a potential shutdown of the federal government at the end of September and a possible default on government debt in mid-October if President Barack Obama does not abandon his signature program extending health insurance to millions of uncovered Americans.

The newest leader of the Tea Party activists is Calgary-born Ted Cruz—the 42-year-old son of Americans who worked in Alberta’s oil patch before moving on to Texas when Cruz was a child. The Princeton- and Harvard-law-educated Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate last November, but is the latest politician seeking to ride populist conservative wrath toward a presidential bid. (Cruz has loudly announced plans to renounce his Canadian dual citizenship.)

Cruz is at the head of an effort on Capitol Hill to deny funding to the president’s health care law in exchange for authorizing the rest of the money the federal government to function beyond the end of this month. Under the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, Americans without health insurance are to begin enrolling in its plans beginning on Oct. 1—the same day money will run out for the federal government if Congress, which authorizes all government spending, cannot reach agreement. Cruz and his allies goaded the Republicans in the House of Representatives into a strategy that many in the party are calling reckless: they passed a bill that would authorize spending for government operations only if funding is cut off for the health-insurance plan. The bill then went to the Senate, where the Democratic majority was expected to remove the health care pro- vision this week and send a bill that would keep the entire government funded, including the health care law, back to the House for approval—thereby daring the Republicans to make good on their threats to shut down the entire federal government if a penny goes to “Obamacare.”

“We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Monday, labelling Cruz and his allies “extremist Republicans” and “fanatics.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner did not want the vote, but—concerned for his leadership position—gave in to the hard- liners. The influence of establishment party leaders over their caucus has weakened as several Republican lawmakers have lost their seats in recent years in nomination challenges at the hands of ideological purists, raising fears among remaining Republican lawmakers of challenges from the right. One of the Hill’s leading deal-makers, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell helped finesse an 11th-hour bipartisan compromise to avoid a government shutdown in 2011. But now McConnell is facing a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate in his home state of Kentucky and is keeping his distance from the latest dispute.

Cruz and his Tea Party allies made defunding the health care law into an ideological litmus test—one that would be remembered at primary election time.
Jim DeMint, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, made a two-week tour of the country this summer, telling town hall after town hall that Obama-
care must be stopped at all costs—and threatening that Republican lawmakers who didn’t go along would be “replaced.” Other groups have run ads against individual Republican senators who have opposed defunding the program, and have said they will use the vote to rate lawmakers in their annual report card to supporters.

Sarah Palin called on the Senate to put itself on “Cruz control.” She wrote on the website Breitbart: “A little reminder to Republican senators up for re-election in 2014: moose season ends soon, allowing more time on one’s hands. So, we’ll be watching your votes very carefully this week.”

Even if Congress agrees to fund government operations, a bigger crisis looms: Republicans are threatening not to raise the federal debt ceiling in mid-October—potentially defaulting on government bonds with unknowable consequences for the global economy—if Obama does not agree to at least delay the health care law. They have a laundry list of other demands—including approval of the  needs proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands. The President has said he won’t negotiate when it comes to the debt ceiling because it would be irresponsible for Congress not to pay the nation’s debts. The last time House Republicans flirted with holding the line on the debt ceiling, the nation’s credit rating was lowered, raising the cost to taxpayers of future financing. Indeed, Moody’s Investors Service has warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling this time would again “roil financial markets.”

Plenty of Republicans fear the latest gambit is self-defeating. The American public does not want a shutdown. A recent poll suggests that 59 per cent of Americans oppose shutting down the government as a means to defund the health care plan, while only 19 per cent support it, according to a CNBC All-America Economic Survey.

“If we end up with a shutdown, it is going to be kamikaze, and the Republicans will end up sushi,” warned conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer.

Republican strategist Karl Rove said a government shutdown “would strengthen the President while alienating independents.

It’s an ill-conceived tactic and Republicans should reject it.” The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page accused Cruz of being motivated by “fundraising lists or getting face time on cable TV.” Fox News host Chris Wallace disclosed over the weekend that high-level Republicans had offered him damaging information on Cruz. Some Republicans fear that the hardball tactics are overshadowing real concerns about the health care law. For example, union leaders recently warned that some employers will cut back full-time workers to fewer than 30 hours per week to avoid providing insurance. Several large retailers have announced plans to drop insurance for part-time employees, and others are dropping coverage for spouses of their workers, citing higher fees in the new law. But House Republicans have refused to entertain proposals from Democrats to fix problems with the complex law.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, warned party members not to let their hardball tactics steal the headlines away from problems with the health care law. “Obamacare is going over like a lead balloon in the economy,” Graham told Fox News. “The only way we can screw it up is to make it about us.”


Ted Cruz and the Tea Party’s dangerous game of chicken

  1. Couple of things. I believe one of Mr Cruz’ parents was Cuban. Also, you use ‘entire’ when talking about shutting down the US government. Actually, there are now so many exceptions to the ‘entire’, it’s more like the coffee shop is shut down inside of a grocery store.

    Saying that, one of the most significant things that won’t be done is the military would not be paid during a shut down. I would encourage you to review the list of agencies that would stay open during a ‘shutdown’ and if possible add, to what I think is a very good article.

    My last couple of points are: because it’s not the ‘entire’ Federal government that will be shut down the Republicans in the House and few in Senate want to take things to the brink; and unfortunately with all the germandering done in these House districts, most of the Tea Party Conservative wing of the Republicans are quite safe and will be relected easily in their States :(

    Updated: Initially I had said Mexican, but father was Cuban.

  2. Maybe you’d appreciate Cruz’s filibuster more if he was wearing pink shoes while delivering it.

    • Yup! Make it so!

    • Or if his was an actual fillibuster, like actually preventing a bill from passing which is what Davis was doing. Whereas he’s grandstanding against a bill that was duly passed three years ago.

  3. And THAT’S the trouble with kansas.

  4. And of course everything the Tea Party does is “ideological” but nothing Obama does is, right. Doesn’t matter how much Obamacare is going to cost the average taxpayer, it’ll never be called “ideological” because the still-fawning media.

    • Exactly. Wendy Davis’ filibuster was about nothing more than keeping late term abortion legal. How is that not “ideological”? Oh right…when it matches the “ideology” of the magazine.

    • Ryan,

      Get over yourself. People like you do not know what you are talking about. You need to get facts, not the lies of the tea party propaganda machine.

      the Affordable Health Care Act would provide health insurance to 45 million Americans who cannot afford it. It will also make health care more affordable to everyone else.

      Your opposition and the tea/republican party are ideological, and opportunistic, because you hate the President’s politics and desire to help the American people. In addition, you are opportunistic because you hate the fact that an African American man is President.And he will not be the last. There will be others, such as Latinos , Asians, Native Americans. The era of only Anglo (non Latino white) men being elected President is over.As it should be in our multicultural, multracial, multyethnic Nation.

      Why are you so scared?

  5. How is Cruz in any way connected to the Republican defeat? 2010 R taking back the house was due to Obamacare’s unpopularity. Romney was Obamacare V1, who oddly lost badly.

  6. “Cruz has loudly announced plans to renounce his Canadian dual citizenship.”

    Thank you. Please send your passport to the nearest Canada Passport office.

    • It’s truly sickening how you Liberals would kick anybody out of the country who disagrees with your politics. Really, it’s disgusting and you should be thankful that your political opponents aren’t nearly as fascist as yourself.

      • He wants to leave….and really, it’ll raise the IQ of both countries.

      • 1. I’m pretty sure he volunteered. He’s actually using his plans to renounce a connection with our country as some kind of signal of gravitas or patriotism, so good riddance.

        2. I’m not a Liberal. Stop calling me names.

        3. This is a guy who is doing his best to obstruct the governance and fiscal stability of an entire country because he can’t stand that HIS opinion about healthcare was not the one chosen by a majority of the country in the last 2 presidential elections or the last three Congressional elections. Now he’s part of a group of ideologues that goes around threatening to attack anyone of his own party who doesn’t share that opinion. If you’re looking for fascists, I think you’ve found already found one and he isn’t a Maclean’s commenter, at least not that I know.

      • balderdash – he is the one who indicated he wanted to break ties

      • Oh dear. I think your reading comprehension might actually be getting worse.

      • “Truly sickening” and “disgusting”. Such pearl-clutching faux moral outrage has made conservatives the new ninnies.

  7. Here’s what Canada’s most vociferous, outspoken, political/sports commentator might have said regarding Ted Cruz. ‘This guys giving up his Canadian citizenship? The no good dirty pinko bike riding Commie.’

  8. Here is the public polling opinion on legality of late term abortion.

    Here is a summary of the public polling opinion on Obamacare.

    Whether Ted Cruz or Wendy Davis is the ideological activist nut job filibustering against public opinion is left as an exercise to the reader.

    • You’ve made it simple to understand. But I suspect Luiza is not interested in the truth. She just poses as a journalist.

    • You, like Mr Cruz appear to like the US perspective on everything. Last time I looked I was a Canadian, living in Canada. If you so want to live in the US, move there and renounce the nationality that clearly causes you so much anguish just like Ted.
      Otherwise act like a Canadian not a teapublican for whom the wishes of others is not relevant.

      • I have a better idea – you get the heck out of Canada and leave it to the rest of us.

        • ooo someone’s having a hissy fit

  9. The vote will be around 1PM. This isn’t a filibuster.

  10. Reckless , dangerous , unpatriotic – Senator Cruz is putting himself before the financial stability of the United States of America- shame on any politician who would do such a thing.

    • This latest tantrum by Ted Cruz is a totally fabricated piece of performance art. This is Ted’s bid for the 2016 Republican nomination. A great photo-op. A call out to the extreme elements of the Tea Party..Kind of pathetic really, when a politician has to resort to these sort of desperate tactics in order to get some recognition.

  11. Nice to see that Luiza Savage is just another journalistic hack.

    Why don’t you get yourself a job with the Obama adminstration, like most of your friends are doing? Why keep your real purpose a secret? Get it out in the open.

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  12. So Obama thinks its irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling because America would not be able to pay her debts… Doesn’t this strike anybody as idiotic? So it’s irresponsible not to borrow more because otherwise we can’t repay money we’ve already borrowed… I’m not an economist but it sounds like the country is insolvent unless they borrow to repay with interest. Good thing that they have a printing press and push over central bankers… NOT!
    Buy Gold. America is unraveling fast.

    • It would be idiotic if it were an actual ceiling… I dont’ normally like to cite wiki… but the first few sentences sum it up pretty well.

      “In effect, it can only restrain the Treasury from paying for expenditures that have already been incurred”

    • The only people it strikes as idiotic are those who are ignorant of economics.

      America is currently spending more than it makes. This is a problem. Yes. However the “debt ceiling” limit is a completely arbitrary one, decided not by the markets, but by America’s own legislation.

      Let’s bring the situation down to a personal level and you might understand it better —

      You’ve got a good idea for a business.. you’ve been working at it for a while, and like any start-up, you’ve had to borrow a decent amount of money to do it. Now, your business hits a slump for a while, but you’re confident that if you have some time, it will turn around and you’ll be able to start really making some money over and above the debt you’ve incurred.

      What’s more, the creditors agree with you. You’ve been good about keeping your bills current and paying your employees, and they think, like you, that your business has a real shot with a bit more time. So they’re willing to lend to you.

      Unfortunately, you’ve decided for some reason that you’re only going to borrow so much, and no more.. and now that you’ve hit that limit you have a choice between re-evaluating how much you’re going to borrow, or shutting down a good chunk of the business that your creditors have been expecting will eventually turn a profit and so get them their money back with the interest they’ve been promised.

      Which is the irresponsible move?

      • You shouldn’t be condescending. Especially when the situation is much more dier than your analogy.

        How about this for a story: You owe $2000,000 and you make $20,000 / year, then in order to pay your bills, you borrow money to pay the tab. You also borrow the money to pay for the interest on that tab. So now you’re trying to decide if you should fire the servants or go deeper into debt to pay their salarys… Even though interest rates have only one way to go, you keep your servants… Money is cheap.

        This is a direct comparison of how the US government behaves. The Fed makes it possible for congress to decide to keep the servants and tax payers get screwed. The Fed controls interest rates by creating money out of thin air and buying 90% of the new issues of US bonds. If the fed and congress are heavily in debt do you think the fed will let interest rates rise?

        They will keep printing money – Buy Gold

  13. Chicken is a game that requires two parties to play. The House stripped Obamacare from the continuing resolution. The President and the Senate will resubmit it in their version. All it takes is one bill to pass both houses and the government is free to borrow more money. It doesn’t matter which bill passes. So which party is responsible? Which party is passionate and which party is the idiot? I guess that depends on which side of the isle you are from. Does that fact completely go over the authors head? Maybe she should wear heels.