It’s quite obvious that Senator Ted Cruz’s 21-hour pseudo-filibuster was but a minuscule hurdle to the rollout of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform package. But what the Texas Republican’s act of grand political theater lacked in legislative impact, it certainly makes up for by illuminating the state of conservatism in the GOP.
On the heels of Cruz’s marathon speech, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered lukewarm praise for Cruz’s unwavering stand against the President’s healthcare reform effort, but criticized the junior Senator for using “intellectually dishonest” tactics to make a point.
Coburn, who has routinely been ranked as one of Congress’s most conservative members, accused Cruz of misleading American voters about just how conservative GOP lawmakers can get away with being.
I’m finishing up nine years in the Senate,” Coburn said on “Morning Joe.” “Nobody has a higher conservative rating than I do. I’m now no longer a conservative according to the standards that have been set by the expectation of this process.”
“I’m getting all sorts of emails from people that supported me, because they have been misled about what’s possible.” Coburn said. “Do people not think if I could change Obamacare, I’d do it in a minute? It’s a disappointment that we have put a short term goal with lousy tactics ahead of being honest with the American people.”
Coburn’s assessment is based on the fact that Cruz couldn’t possibly garner the necessary 67 Senate votes that it would take to override Obama’s inevitable veto of a continuing resolution that defunds the Affordable Care Act.
“The problem with politics is if you create expectations you can’t fulfill, that leads to disappointment,” Coburn said. “You know, I’m all for changing the Affordable Care Act, eliminating it and doing something that’s more transparent, more market-oriented. To create the impression that we can defund Obamacare when the only thing we control — and barely — is the U.S. House of Representatives, is not intellectually honest.”
Here’s a quote from Coburn on Obamacare circa October 2010: “I think the best strategy is to call for a repeal bill and pass that bill. And if you can’t pass it the first time, then offer it again the next month, and offer it again the next month.”
In 2010, Republicans roundly voted against Obamacare. In 2011, every Republican in the U.S. House voted to repeal the healthcare law. The GOP budget proposal submitted by establishment GOP little-boy-do Representative Paul Ryan early this year proposed stripping funding for Obamacare.
All of those efforts failed. But as Coburn said in 2010: Republicans should try and try again until they have exhausted all options. Cruz has simply set about taking the fight against Obamacare — a fight he is damned to lose — to its logical conclusion. Isn’t that why his constituents put him in office?
Coburn doesn’t think so. And ditto for Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.), who has spent the past two days pissing and moaning about “vile” phone calls he keeps receiving from Cruz supporters.
“The vehemence of the phone calls coming into the office. I don’t care, people can call me whatever they want … I haven’t heard such vile, profane, obscene language,” King said Thursday.
He also called Cruz a false leader for failing to bend to the will of the Washington machine and give up on the Obamacare fight, something most other so-called conservatives did long ago.
“I’m not saying Ted Cruz is responsible for all his supporters, but he has tapped into a dark strain here in the American political psyche here, and again, the most obscene, profane stuff you can imagine all from people who say they support the Constitution,” King said. “I think what we have to do is reach out to his people and let them know that they’re following a false leader here.”
King and Coburn are not alone. They are joined by a long list of other GOP leaders who vowed to fight Obamacare, dished out a great deal of lofty rhetoric and lightweight legislative showboating and, in the end, did nothing but mislead their constituents. Among them are many lawmakers in the House and Senate, especially those in leadership positions.
Cruz will take his lashes for what amounted to a largely hot-air and ineffectual last-ditch effort to halt Obamacare in the form of pompous bloviating from his GOP counterparts. But don’t be fooled; they aren’t attacking him because he’s wrong or because his effort is doomed to fail. They do so because they are frightened that the rhetorical, do-nothing nature of American conservatism is quickly becoming a thing of the past. And as long as guys like Cruz and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appear to be proactively fighting policies from the left, even in the face of sure failure and political castigation, people like King and the rest of the GOP do-nothings are going to have to deal with “vile” phone calls from angry constituents wondering why they weren’t leading impassioned charges of their own.
Coburn, King, Boehner and the whole lot of so-called Republicans already know that the most effective result of Cruz’s talk-a-thon will have nothing to do with Obamacare, but will rather exhibit at polling places in coming elections.