All In   |  September 23, 2013

Cruz pushes efforts to defund Obamacare

Chris Hayes discusses Ted Cruz's plans to filibuster the budget resolution in the Senate with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and MSNBC Contributor Michael Steele.

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>>> it's a standard we need, i need, right up there where i can see it. and that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes " starts right now.

>>> good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes . tonight on "all in," republican senator ted cruz is quickly becoming notorious in washington for being hated by everyone except himself.

>>> also tonight, the latest on the terrorist attack in kenya. just a few hours ago, kenyan officials said that after three days, the siege was finally over.

>>> plus, a blockbuster expose of the clintons, a piece i'm sure the clintons wish had never been written about a guy they'd rather you not know about. the author of that book is here. those stories are ahead.

>>> first, we begin with the great ted cruz backlash of 2013 . tonight, minority leader mitch mcconnell announced he will not support ted cruz 's long-shot strategy to filibuster the budget resolution in the u.s. senate . that's a rapid change of fortunes for cruz , who just a short week ago was celebrating his improbable victory in which he almost single-handedly pushed house speaker john boehner to do something he manifestly did not want to do, pass a continuing resolution that would defund obama care. but ted cruz 's biggest victory in his very short senatorial career could be his biggest defeat, revealing that there was an entire lake of contempt for ted cruz out there just waiting for the dam to burst. and this week --

>> this has been one of the strangest weeks i've ever had in washington , and i say that because as soon as we listed ted cruz as our featured guest this week, i got unsolicited research and questions not from democrats but from top republicans .

>> fox's chris wallace may have been shocked by the republican research dump on ted cruz , but it's a sign of the time. as of this week, all of washington , d.c., is in open revolt against the junior senator from texas.

>> a u.s. senator called me yesterday morning, said i'm going to be watching senator cruz on "fox news sunday" because i don't know what his next step is.

>> those who are pushing to shut down our government include a senator from texas who has a harvard law degree. i assume that in the course of his harvard education, he learned how to count to 60.

>> i didn't think it would be smart to send the house bill to the senate and we filibuster our own bill.

>> one senator, a republican senator, said it's the dumbest idea he ever heard.

>> ted cruz has climbed out on a limb, and now it's getting sawed off.

>> tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this.

>> reporter: today, greg sergeant of the " washington post " reporting a quote from a house republican aide that compared ted cruz to one of the great bullies in modern pop culture . they, cruz and his allies" are reminiscent of the cobra kai group from karate kid ," sweep the leg , sweep the leg ! johnny, representing the republicans , the sensei, representing ted cruz , swept the leg. however, daniel lorusso, i.e., president obama , appears ready to crane kick republicans in the face and take home the big trophy, in this case, obama care. but that said, all of this villainizing is what ted cruz wants, because for ted cruz , being the most hated man in washington is a badge of honor. what is not a badge of honor is being viewed as a snobby, overcredentialed jerk, and that is the picture of ted cruz painted vividly in a new " gq " profile out today, which notes as a law student at harvard , cruz "refused to study with anyone who hadn't been an undergrad at harvard , princeton or yale. says damon watson, one of cruz 's law school roommates, he said he didn't want anybody from minor ivies like penn or brown." while working for george w. bush 's campaign, he was also known for dispatching regular updates on his accomplishments that one recipient likened to "the cards people send about their families at christmas, except ted's were only about him and were more frequent." " gq " also retells the story of the oil painting ted cruz has hanging in his senate office. it's a story ted cruz had previously told abc news and one that stephen colbert knocked down handily.

>> i have always liked the fact that i sit in my office and i look at a giant painting of me getting my tail whipped 9-0, and it is very good for instilling humility.

>> yes. i've got to tell you, i don't know what part of this painting comes off as more humble. is it the hint of halo surrounding his head or is it look toward heaven, or is it all the people in this painting of him who are painting more paintings of him?

>> but while ted cruz may have earned the eyre of democrats and republicans alike, he has found one stalwart ally. after defending cruz on fox, sarah palin jumped fully into the bunker with him, tweeting at fox news sunday night, "keep it truly fair and balanced. release the gop names encouraging you to trash senator ted cruz . no more anonymous sources ." the backlash against ted cruz , however, has not slowed him down. earlier today on the senate floor, he continued to play the part, laying into harry reid and senate democrats .

>> we all know that 3 1/2 years ago, obama care was forced into law on a strict party-line vote, by straight, brut force, but it shouldn't be funded that way. that's not the way a government should proceed.

>> joining me now is senator sheldon whitehouse , democrat from rhode island and a member of the senate budget committee . and i want to talk budget process with you, which, man, will that keep the viewers around. but before we get to that -- no, because i have to confess, i do this for a living, and i am so gd confused. i want you to explain things to me. but first of all, i have to get your response to ted cruz on the well of the senate , forced into law, straight, brut force. is that your constitutional understanding of how obama care came to be?

>> well, i think it went through both the house and the senate , bicameral procedure. and i would note particularly that in the senate , this was actually quite a bipartisan effort at the beginning, until the message came down to the republicans to walk away at all costs. and we did hundreds of amendments in committee, many of them republican amendments. so, it's a little bit like the orphan throwing himself on the mercy of the court, having killed his parents. to say that, you know, this was rammed down our throats because we all decided to walk away from it in order to damage the president. it takes a bit of nerve.

>> okay, so, here's my question. you've got the house has sent you over a continuing resolution . the senate is now scheduled to vote on a continuing resolution that's going to keep the government open. and it's looking like it's not going to be voted on probably properly until friday, i'm understanding, or maybe over the weekend? am i wrong that there is, the clock is running out to avoid a shutdown?

>> there are one or potentially two cloture votes that may be required, and each one of those cloture votes locks in a 30-hour period for debate. unless the republicans yield back that time, you could have to burn all of those hours, and that could run it into friday, conceivably, depending on the delaying tactics that they use. you could even run it into the weekend, but we're hoping they'll make their points and be reasonable and move on so that you don't get to a real hair's breath cliffhanger with something as important as an american government shutdown at stake.

>> senator, you just said we hope they're going to make their points and be reasonable and move on.

>> i know.

>> that strikes terror in my heart if that is the game plan .

>> it hasn't been the recent record, but you know, this is a fight that sooner or later had to come. the sensible and moderate republicans are fed up and furious with having been bullied and hectohtored and lectured by the tea party fanatics. i think what you're seeing with ted cruz is general blowback against the tea party fanaticism and how bullying they've been of their colleagues. if you look around the republican caucus rooms, most of the bodies hanging in the corner of lost colleagues were taken out by tea party attacks, not by democrats. and so, i think a lot of the moderate republicans have just plain had it, and they're pushing back, and it will be really good for our country if they successfully push back. a lot of them have been afraid of these tea party guys for too long because they've looked at their colleagues who lost primaries and think, oh, gosh, better keep my head down and not cross these guys. but i think this is getting to be that tipping point where they're really fed up and want to go back to being a rational party again.

>> is there some part of me that shouldn't be won over by someone who destroys the kind of clubby collegiality of the senate ? because there's part of me that thinks, like, obviously, ted cruz stands for everything i don't understand for substantively, but i also kind of like someone who is making his colleagues angry, because that body seems so fricking dysfunctional to me, and i've got to think there's something to it. if everyone is mad at you in the senate , then maybe you're doing something right.

>> yeah, well, the problem is that it's dysfunctional because of this constant extremism that comes up.

>> right.

>> and i don't think the cure for that poison is a worse dose of that poison.

>> that's a very, very good point. senator sheldon whitehouse , thank you so much. enjoyed it.

>> thank you.

>> joining me is michael steele , msnbc contributor, former chairman of the rnc. all right, i am, like i was telling you before we went on camera, i am fascinated by the ted cruz , ted cruz as a polarizing figure.

>> right, right.

>> why are people so -- why is he so polarizing right now among republicans and conservatives?

>> you're not talking about rank in file republicans out there. you don't see the uproar and consternation coming from grassroots activists around the country, the sarah palin wing of the party. you don't see that. this is the establishment.

>> right.

>> this is what you just -- the point you just made. well, you know, if he's getting the old folks all fired up, there must be something to it, and that's his mindset. his mindset is to go and to change the system to force it to look at itself and deal with new realities.

>> all right, you sound sympathetic to him, but this has always been, every single person --

>> i'm always with the outlier, you know.

>> well, you're with the outlier, but i also feel like you have run head long into what the demands the base make, which can sometimes be difficult to heed --

>> and they can be.

>> -- and run a successful party, and this is a breaking point moment. you have tom coburn , and tom coburn is no squish.

>> strict conservative.

>> this is strategic suicide.

>> keep in mind, there is a general strategy that is a political strategy by the party officials to move this legislation or to block legislation, and then there is the personal strategy which tends to fall a little bit more into the ted cruz camp, which puts him in the position, he's the driver, he's the main focus of the debate. it's not the issue, it's not the substance of the argument. it is what the man himself is all about. and so, i think what ted needs to do at this point, you got our attention. now back off. and begin to bring the leadership around to a different kind of solution --

>> but there's no -- that's the thing --

>> there's nobody doing that, right.

>> i don't think he understands. obviously, everyone says what a smart guy he's been and i actually have seen him argue in the supreme court , i was blown away by how good he was, but he doesn't seem to understand the procedure at play here. like, the things he was telling chris wallace in the interview this sunday didn't make a ton of sense. he's backed himself into a procedural corner. there is no game plan .

>> again, when you are taking yourself outside of the process so far that you can't wrap back around into it, you have this problem where you're standing there alone, which is where he is right now, and where even the base that you have inside the membership, inside the club, is not feeling it.

>> so, here's my question. obviously, this helps him with the conservative grassroots.

>> oh, yeah.

>> if he is hated, if john mccain hates him and we're beating up on him on msnbc, this is all --

>> oh, he's loving it.

>> here's my question. the " gq " profile, the fascinating thing about ted cruz is he is a creature of the grassroots, but he is as much a creature of the american elite as any single politician in american today. the guy is credentialed up the wazoo. and when you read the quotes in " gq " about i won't study with anyone who didn't go to harvard , yale or princeton, that doesn't play very well with the conservative grassroots, does it?

>> how about the brother from the community college ? he liked to get a little bit of the harvard glow flowing his way. and you're right, that's the sort of elitism that doesn't get exposed too readily, that you have thai bifurcation of personality. i have my grassroots --

>> that's exactly right.

>> i'm down with the people, but only after i have my latte.

>> right.

>> so, that's the problem.

>> do you think he's vulnerable there?

>> i think so i think ultimately, it becomes like swiss cheese , holes that you can go in through and have a problem with. he'll have a problem with down the road. but that's if he does a presidential race, because as you saw, they get into the oppo research out on the guy already.

>> i know.

>> so, there clearly is a button that's been pushed within the party by him. the question for him now is does he back it down? he got everybody's attention. does he back it down and begin to play so we don't walk into this trap on monday.

>> that's the trap on monday. there's two options for him, quickly, which is that if this thing zoferlz and they pass and continue a resolution that funds obama care, he gets to be the great hero in defeat, right?

>> right.

>> but if there's a shutdown and there's a huge backlash against the republican party and the bluff is called, then he is in trouble.

>> it's called sol, my friend.

>> msnbc contributor michael steele .

>> good to be with you.