When Peter King is going to give you a sound bite, he lets you know ahead of time, so as not to insult your intelligence or, for that matter, waste your time if you’re not that interested in the details.
But please, stay for the footnotes.
Here is Mr. King, a Republican congressman who represents Long Island, speaking on Tuesday afternoon about Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, who is bringing the federal government to the brink of a shutdown because he wants to cut all the money for President Obama’s health care plan.
“My sound bite is to say he’s a fraud,” Mr. King said. “I start with that, and then I go on. It takes me two or three minutes to explain it.”
Jumping ahead to that third minute, Mr. King said precisely what he thought of the Cruz tactic: “It is just a form of governmental terrorism.”
Strong coffee, which Mr. King began pouring last week, a near-solitary voice against what he saw as a cynical maneuver to delude ordinary Republican voters into thinking that President Obama’s health care law could be effectively repealed without winning elections or court cases. Now, other Republicans are beginning to speak against Mr. Cruz and what he has wrought.
The federal government technically will have no money starting Monday. The legislation to provide it passed the House last week, without funding for the health care law. Then it was sent to the Senate, which was precisely what Mr. Cruz said he wanted. Nevertheless, on Tuesday afternoon, he stood on the floor of the Senate and said he would keep on talking so that no one could vote on that very bill, which was custom-made to his specifications. Why did he not want the vote? Because he would lose. There is no possibility that the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority, would go along with his bill. Nor would President Obama sign it. This was evident from the start of Mr. Cruz’s campaign.
What offends Mr. King is that Mr. Cruz, whose office did not respond to an e-mail message, dared other Republicans to be as pure and relentless in their opposition to the health care program as he is, even though everyone knew his tactics were doomed. It also struck Mr. King as an unprincipled attempt to change the law without consent of the voters. Losing actually means something; Mr. King himself said he had voted against the Obama health care overhaul at every opportunity, then voted to repeal it, and thinks it’s a law that ought to be undone.
“But I also believe in democracy, and I don’t mean that in a Fourth of July way,” he said. “We’ve lost on the House floor, we lost on the Senate floor, the president signed the bill, the Supreme Court held it to be constitutional, and the 2012 election was run on Obamacare as much as any issue. President Obama won.
“I still think we should try to repeal the bill. But you repeal it the same way you passed it. You get bills through both houses of Congress, and you get the president to sign it. The only way we are going to do that is by electing more Republicans and winning the presidential election.”
About two-thirds of the Republicans in the House of Representatives agree with him, Mr. King asserted: “A lot of them are intimidated by the Ted Cruz wing. There were robocalls and efforts in districts throughout the country during August against Republicans, telling them why they had to support defunding Obamacare.
“What do you accomplish? You build up this mailing list for Cruz, and a fund-raising list. And you also are going to generate primaries against people who I would consider to be good Republicans, pretty solid conservative Republicans.”
Among the leaders of the Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is facing a primary challenge from a conservative who is further to his right. Bucking Mr. Cruz could hurt Mr. McConnell in that contest. Nevertheless, on Tuesday he made it clear that he was not going to back Mr. Cruz in his fight.
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