DALLAS -- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's message to Republican lawmakers who won't support defunding "Obamacare" at the risk of shutting down the government? "Don't blink."
And he downplayed the effects of a possible shutdown, telling a Dallas crowd on Tuesday evening that the last time the government experienced "a temporary suspension of non-essential federal government spending," the military kept functioning and Social Security checks were distributed.
Cruz is leading the charge to defund President Barack Obama's health care law at what he calls "the single best time" to get rid of the law. And while Democrats who back the law certainly aren't on his side, Cruz has framed the fight so that they're not his only foes.
"We have to do something that conservatives haven't done in a long time: We've got to stand up and win the argument," Cruz told the crowd of thousands who gathered at the town hall style meeting.
Cruz said that if enough Republicans stand together, it will create an impasse to force the issue.
"A significant amount of Republicans assume, with an impasse, that President Obama will never ever ever give up his principles, so Republicans have to give up theirs," Cruz said. "If you have an impasse, you know -- one side or the other has to blink. How do we win this fight? Don't blink."
The event was one stop of Heritage Action's nine-city tour aimed at building opposition to the law. Former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint now leads the prominent conservative think tank. He also attended Tuesday's meeting.
Cruz and DeMint never appeared together onstage or during a press conference beforehand -- law prevents DeMint from lobbying his former colleagues until two years after his Dec. 2012 resignation from the Senate.
(That didn't stop Cruz from praising the former South Carolina senator's toughness: "Chuck Norris wears Jim DeMint pajamas," Cruz joked.)
What both Cruz and DeMint are describing as the last chance to stop "Obamacare" is the push to use the Senate continuing resolution that funds the government to strip funding for the health care law. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is leading that effort, and 13 senators have signed his letter supporting the move, including possible 2016 presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio.
"Under no circumstances will I vote for a continuing resolution that funds even one penny of 'Obamacare,'" Cruz said Tuesday evening at the town hall.
Thousands of supporters turned out for the event -- though Cruz was interrupted several times by protestors who yelled questions about how uninsured people in Texas would get health care without the president's law.
Cruz engaged one protestor, who told a personal story about getting health care from Mexico. But two others were escorted from the ballroom after the heckling continued.
"Part of the First Amendment is about respecting the views of others," Cruz said.
Cruz's push has drawn opposition from moderate Republicans in the Senate -- the plan has been labeled "silly" and "dangerous" -- who say that the GOP would take the blame for a government shutdown. On top of that, they warn, a shutdown wouldn't even end funding for the health care law.
"I'm for stopping 'Obamacare,' but shutting down the government will not stop 'Obamacare,'" Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told a Kentucky town hall meeting earlier this month, according to the local station WYMT.
Cruz's crusade is particularly troublesome for McConnell, who has studiously avoided taking a position on the proposal. He has a Tea Party challenger in his 2014 Senate campaign; at a speech earlier this month, businessman Matt Bevin urged McConnell to "man up" and support defunding the health care law.
But there's vocal opposition among more moderate GOP senators.
"I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard of," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said last month. "Listen, as long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be law."
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., commissioned a Congressional Research Service report that shows that the health care law would get its funding even if the rest of the government shuts down.
Cruz says that the GOP can shift the blame for a government shutdown onto President Obama's shoulders.
"We've got to go out and say look, we don't want to shut the government down. We have voted to fund the government." he said.
First published August 20 2013, 7:27 PM