By Lisa Mascaro
1:34 PM EDT, September 22, 2013
WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Ted Cruz vowed Sunday he would seek to stop legislation to keep the government running unless President Obama agrees to defund the nation’s new healthcare law.
The potential presidential contender from Texas has taken the lead in the Senate in a politically risky effort that has sparked divisions within the GOP. Although conservative and tea party groups have rallied to his cause, Cruz acknowledged Sunday he did not yet have enough GOP senators willing to launch a filibuster that could shut down the government. But he’s working on it.
“I believe we should stand our ground,” Cruz said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This has been a fast-moving target. You know, just a few weeks ago we didn't have anywhere near the votes we needed in the House or in the Senate,” he said. “It's now our turn to unify, to stand together with House Republicans.”
House Republicans have made stopping the Affordable Care Act their top priority before the healthcare law’s new online marketplaces open for business Oct. 1, the start of the new federal fiscal year.
Late last week, the House GOP approved legislation that would defund the healthcare law as part of a bill to keep the government running past Sept. 30.
Senate Republicans now find themselves in a bind. Because Democrats have the majority in the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to easily have the 51 votes needed to strip the healthcare provision from the bill, keeping Obama’s signature domestic achievement intact.
Cruz is pushing his fellow GOP senators not to let the bill advance to that stage. In a move that has drawn criticism from within his party, Cruz argued that Republicans’ only hope is to mount a filibuster to stop the entire bill, refusing to give their support to cross the required 60-vote threshold to proceed to the legislation.
That creates a complicated procedural argument, as was seen over the weekend as the conservative Heritage Action supported the bill in the House but on Saturday urged senators to block it. When the debate starts this week the Senate will have just a few days to act before government funding for routine services, including keeping national parks open and providing pay for soldiers, would run out by Oct. 1.
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