By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leader of the conservative crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday “the Senate needs to act” to avert a partial government shutdown.
“In my view, (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid should call the Senate back in today… There’s no reason the Senate should be home on vacation.”
The Senate is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Cruz added, “If Harry Reid forces a government shutdown, that will be a mistake. I hope he backs away from that ledge that he’s pushing us towards.”
He also said “Harry Reid has to move off his absolutist position” and accused the Majority Leader of not being willing to compromise or even being willing to discuss possible changes in the health care law which President Barack Obama signed in 2010.
Cruz’s comments came after the House voted late Saturday night to delay the health care overhaul for a year.
This move to delay – rather than defund – Obamacare shows that the House is willing to compromise, Cruz argued. “That’s the essence of a compromise,” he told NBC’s David Gregory.
The Texas Republican noted that the Obama administration announced in July it was delaying for a year the requirement under the health care law that employers pay penalties if they don’t offer health insurance to their workers or if they offer a plan which doesn’t meet the law’s standards. Why not also delay the law’s requirement for individual Americans, Cruz asked.
But with no indication that the House and Senate can find agreement on a spending bill to fund the federal government’s operations, a partial government shutdown is set to start at midnight Monday.
When the Senate takes up the House measure, it seems likely that Reid would offer a motion to table, or kill, it.
Under Senate rules, such a motion can’t be debated; therefore no filibuster or delaying tactic is possible.
Starting last Tuesday, Cruz held the Senate floor for 21 hours to dramatize his effort to block Obamacare.
Late Saturday night the House passed two amendments to the Senate spending bill, one to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year, the other to repeal the tax on medical device manufacturers that was included in the Affordable Care Act to help offset the cost of expanded insurance coverage.
Two House Democrats voted for the delay on Obamacare, while two Republicans voted against it; otherwise the vote split along party lines.
On the medical device tax repeal, 17 Democrats voted for it, as did all Republican members.
The House also unanimously approved a separate bill which would pay troops, some defense contractors and civilian Pentagon workers, if there is a shutdown.
Reid said Saturday before the House voted that “the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax.” He scoffed that the House votes were “pointless.”
House Speaker John Boehner said after the votes Saturday night, “The House has again passed a plan that reflects the American people's desire to keep the government running and stop the president's health care law.”
He added, “Now that the House has again acted, it's up to the Senate to pass this bill without delay to stop a government shutdown. Let's get this done."
The most recent partial shutdown lasted 21 days in late 1995 and early 1996 when President Bill Clinton and GOP congressional leaders couldn’t agree on the terms of a spending bill.