Ted Cruz (R-TX), the senator who had a leading role in the government shutdown in 2013, told reporters Monday he has “consistently opposed shutdowns. In 2013, I said we shouldn’t shut the government.”
Cruz delivered his alternative history during a media scrum Monday afternoon, as senators reached a deal to reopen the government.
“They’re angry,” Cruz said. “They hate the president, and they’re demanding of Senate Democrats: oppose everything, resist everything, shut everything down.”
MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt quickly pointed out that this sounded a little ironic coming from Cruz. Antics such as reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” during a marathon filibuster quickly made him the mascot of the 2013 shutdown.
“This sounds pretty familiar,” Hunt asked him. “Didn’t you say all this back when it happened to you?”
“Now, I recognize this is a media narrative that you love to tell,” Cruz said, “but it’s worth noting in 2013—”
“Green Eggs and Ham?” Hunt interjected.
“In 2013,” Cruz continued, ignoring the question. “I voted repeatedly to fund the government, and in 2013 it was Harry Reid and the Democrats who voted to ‘no’, who vote to shut the government down just like this week.”
Hunt and other reporters continued to challenge Cruz. But the Texas senator did not relent. “We should not be shutting the government down. I have consistently opposed shutdowns, in 2013, I said we shouldn’t shut the government down. Indeed, I went to the Senate floor repeatedly asking unanimous consent to re-open the government.”
“You stood in the way of that,” Hunt pointed out, again.
“That’s factually incorrect,” Cruz said, insisting again that this was just “a wonderful media narrative.”
Ted Cruz pretending he didn’t shut down the government in 2013 is my favorite Dumbest Shutdown subplot— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) January 22, 2018
Ted Cruz’s repeated insistence that he never shut down the government doesn’t change reality. In 2013, Cruz, along with conservatives in the House, demanded that any spending bill also delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats, who still had control of the chamber in 2013, were never going to support such a move. But enough House Republicans wouldn’t go for a funding bill that didn’t defund Obamacare, setting up a showdown that shut down government for more than two weeks. (In the end, Cruz and the conservative House faction did not win policy concessions.)
Republicans were largely blamed for the shutdown. Cruz’s theatrics inspired the ire not just of Democrats, but of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, who felt Cruz knew his self-righteous gambit was doomed to fail, but went ahead with it anyway to raise his own political profile at his party’s expense. And it really, really did not win him any pals.
On Monday, another reporter brought up this issue with Cruz, asking why were his GOP colleagues angry with him if he didn’t help prompt the shutdown. Cruz responded that “Republicans were divided.”
But it wasn’t just reporters who were slightly wide-eyed at Cruz’s amnesia. Senator Susan Collins told reporters she was “rendered speechless.”
Senator Susan Collins was just told in a scrum that Ted Cruz claimed to be consistently against government shutdowns. She stood there, mouth literally agape, for several seconds before saying "you've rendered me speechless."— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) January 22, 2018
Still, this isn’t the first time Cruz has used this line of reasoning. The senator has basically argued before that he never wanted a shutdown, he was just trying to defund Obamacare, and it was everyone else’s fault for not going along.
“The reason it didn’t work is because Ted Cruz was the only candidate, the only senator, who campaigned on defunding Obamacare and followed through on his campaign promise. Nobody else did,” Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Cruz’s presidential campaign told the Washington Post in 2016.
Tyler added others seemed to give in too easily: “‘Oh, we don’t have the votes. We’ll just give up.’ That’s not leadership; that’s capitulation and appeasement and surrender.”
The 2013 shutdown ended after 17 days, when House Republican voted to reopen the government, without accomplishing any Obamacare defunding or delay. That bill passed the Senate, 81-18. Cruz voted against it.