Ted Cruz Clashes With Health Care Protesters At July 4 Celebration

UNITED STATES - JUNE 27: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talks with the media after the Senate Policy luncheon in the Capitol on June 27, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told senators there would be no vote on health care this week. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQPHO

At a rally and parade in the border town of McAllen, Texas on Independence Day, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) clashed with a group of protesters who booed, heckled, and attempted to question him about his support for a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Texas Tribune, Cruz attempted to work the crowd and shake hands while avoiding the protesters, who held up signs reading “We’re pissed,” “No Medicaid cuts” and “No transfer of wealth 4 our health”—a reference to the massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the Senate GOP’s health care bill. Other protesters held signs attacking Cruz for his positions on immigration and climate change.

Cruz, who is running for reelection and fending off a challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), acknowledged the loud protest when he took the podium to speak Tuesday morning.

“I will say you have a right to speak, and I will always defend your right,” he said, according to the Texas Tribune. He ended his speech, however, with a dig at the protesters, calling them “our friends who are so energized today that they believe that yelling is a wonderful thing to do.” When later asked by a reporter about the demonstrators, he dismissed them as a “small group of people on the left who right now are very angry.”

Cruz wrapped up his appearance by riding through the streets of McAllen in a vintage convertible.

After canceling a planned vote on their health care bill last week after a wave of defections from the far-right and center of the GOP caucus, only two Republican senators are holding town halls over the July 4 recess: Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).  Lacking a forum in which to question and confront their representatives, citizens are organizing through progressive advocacy groups like the Town Hall Project to confront Cruz and other lawmakers whenever and wherever they appear in public. The health care repeal effort, which could come up for a vote as early as this month, is a top item on their agenda.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill would cause 22 million more people to be uninsured in 10 years than if current laws were left in place, as cuts to Medicaid and subsidies for low-income people price many out of the health care insurance marketplace entirely.

Cruz is currently pushing an amendment that would make the bill even more conservative. The proposal, which Republican leadership is weighing seriously, would allow states to sell cheap, bare-bones insurance plans that don’t cover essential health benefits like prescription drugs, hospital visits, mental health services and maternity care.