House Republicans had just finished another private strategy meeting about how to respond after Senate Democrats rejected their latest proposal to fund the government and delay Obamacare, and New York Republican Rep. Peter King was huffing.
King told reporters nearby he would not support his party’s fresh plan to fund the government, which included an amendment to delay the mandate to buy health insurance in the Affordable Care Act. King initially supported the effort to defund the president's health care law, but with the deadline looming at midnight Monday for a government shutdown, enough was enough.
“I’m voting against it, that’s all,” King said, adding there were as many as 25 other House Republicans who agreed with him privately. But he couldn’t say if they would join him in publicly voting to buck House Republican leadership.
King added that if the government did shut down, one man would be responsible. “Ted Cruz should be blamed,” King said. “And anybody that follows him.”
This week’s battle over using a must-pass spending bill to gut Obamacare began in the Senate when Cruz, a Texas Republican, waged a months-long campaign to urge lawmakers to adopt the strategy. Over the summer, Cruz aired television commercials asking voters to call their members of Congress — Republican and Democrat — to demand that lawmakers refuse to fund the government unless Obamacare is repealed or defunded.
Last week, Cruz staged a 21-hour protest speech on the Senate floor in an attempt to make his case. He also quietly lobbied conservative Republicans in the House to strong-arm Speaker John Boehner into using his strategy in the House.
The effort has put House Republicans in a bind, since Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama continue to refuse to give an inch on the health care law. And the resulting standoff could result in a government shutdown — which polls show most Americans would blame on the GOP.
Cruz’s tactics have infuriated Republicans like King, a lawmaker considered a moderate on domestic issues and spending.