KINGWOOD, Texas — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has come home to Texas to promote his long-shot bid to defund "Obamacare," warning Tea Party activists Monday that they have only a few months to stop the health care reform law before people get “addicted” to it.
Cruz, who has thrilled his conservative base with his promise to shake up business as usual in Washington, says that once the insurance subsidies kick in at the beginning of 2014, it will be too late to undo the Affordable Care Act.
He said that is precisely President Obama’s goal.
“His strategy is to get as many Americans as possible hooked on the subsidies, addicted to the sugar,” Cruz told a Kingwood Tea Party gathering. “If we get to Jan. 1, this thing is here forever.”
Cruz wants his fellow GOP senators to oppose continued funding for much of the government — even if it causes a partial shutdown — unless funding for the health care law is stripped out of the federal budget. But many Republicans in Washington aren’t going along, and even some fellow Tea Party-backed lawmakers are saying it’s uphill at best.
Cruz is undaunted. Though he has admitted there aren't enough votes in favor of the shutdown strategy right now, he said activists have the power to stop Obamacare by demanding that their elected representatives oppose any budget that does not cut off federal funding for it. The current budget year ends Sept. 30.
“No elected officials in Washington can do this. Only you can do this,” Cruz said in Kingwood. “The only way this happens is if we see an army, a grassroots army of Americans, demanding that their elected officials do the right thing.”
Cruz was treated to a hero’s welcome at the Tea Party event, getting a standing ovation and a gift — a flack jacket to deal with all the political fire coming at him — from the organizers.
But Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Tanene Allison said Cruz wants to shut down the government to elevate his status as a potential presidential candidate and accused him of engaging in a “pathetic act of partisan pandering.”
“For Ted Cruz to say that Texans will become addicted to health care is ridiculous,” Allison said. “Is your child addicted to their ability to see a doctor? Is your grandmother addicted to her ability to take life saving heart medication? Taking care of the health of our families isn't a political game or a sugar addiction, it's a Texan value.”
Cruz is taking advantage of the August recess to crisscross the state, meet with supporters, stage town hall meetings and push his message of smaller government. Along the way Monday, he relived a little of the glory of his upset 2012 victory against wealthy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who had been heavily favored to win.
Cruz, casually dressed in khaki pants and ostrich cowboy boots, noted that he had registered at only 2 percent when he began the race in January 2011.
"Y'all remember a $50 million primary, the most expensive primary in the country, and being outspent 3-to-1 — $35 million in nasty attack ads," Cruz said. He joked that his wife, Heidi, after seeing the negative ads, turned to him and said, "I didn't realize what a rotten guy you were."
Cruz said he's also faced long odds in his battles against the Washington political establishment, but he told the cheering gathering in Kingwood that conservative activists helped him and other Tea Party-backed senators fight proposals restricting gun rights and are forcing the Obama administration to become more accountable on the use of drones.
The senator — who will take a side trip Friday to New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the nation’s first presidential primary — downplayed speculation about his White House ambitions. He said they've been overblown by the news media. Cruz said he’ll travel anywhere he can gather up like-minded conservatives to oppose what he sees as unconstitutional government overreach.
“It does seem some folks in the media have worked themselves into a bit of tizzy,” Cruz said. “You know, I’ve been to, I think, 13 states all across the country ... because the only way we’re going to win these fights is if the American people rise up by the millions and demand accountability.”