In remarks likely to deepen his rift with members of his own party, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he wants conservatives to hold Senate Republicans “accountable” for opposing the ill-fated effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.
Echoing his sentiments from earlier this week, Cruz told National Review’s Robert Costa in an interview published Saturday that the defunding campaign was derailed by a “significant number” of his GOP colleagues who “actively, aggressively, and vocally led the effort to defeat House Republicans.”
“Once Senate Republicans did that, it crippled the chances of this effort, and it caused the lousy deal.” he told Costa.
Cruz didn’t identify any specific senators and, as he said earlier this year, made it clear that he won’t be involved in any GOP primaries. But he indicated he wants those lawmakers to pay a price at the ballot box.
“As with every decision elected officials make, the consequences of those decisions are up to the American people,” Cruz said. “But I will say this: from day one in office, I’ve urged the American people to hold every elected official accountable, and far too many elected officials are not listening to the American people… when you’ve got 10 to 20 Senate Republicans going on television, day after day after day, saying, ‘we cannot win, this is a fool’s errand, we will lose, nothing will happen, we will surrender,’ and blaming Republicans every step of the way, it eliminates the ability to get a positive outcome.”
The defunding movement led to the government shutdown and brought the United States close to default. It was also decried as quixotic by a number of Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
During an interview last week on Fox News, McCain repeatedly told an anchor for the conservative network that the shutdown was the fault of Republicans like Cruz who chased a “fool’s errand.” And Cruz was reportedly berated by Republican senators for the strategy during a recent closed-door meeting.
But some conservative groups have already indicated that they plan to follow Cruz’s advice. FreedomWorks chief Matt Kibbe said that Republicans who voted for the bill to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling will draw primary challengers, while the Senate Conservatives Fund — founded by Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, a fellow defunding leader — endorsed Matt Bevin, the tea party champion who’s challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).