Debate over the government shutdown and Obamcare became testy on Friday afternoon between Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Durbin accused Cruz of causing “damage” with the government shutdown, which Durbin said Cruz “inspired’ by his 21-hour speech last week on the Senate floor.
Cruz was asking for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to immediate consideration of a House resolution that would provide continuing appropriations during a government shutdown for reserve members of the U.S. military. Durbin and the rest of the Democrats, however, do not want to consider the “piecemeal” bill.
“If the gentleman from Texas is really focused on veterans and those who have served our country, take into consideration the 560,000 federal employees who are currently facing furlough or are on furlough who are veterans, a fourth of whom are disabled veterans,” Durbin said. “So what the junior senator from Texas is doing is picking and choosing those he will allow in the lifeboat. At this moment, it’s the National Guard and Reserve.”
The House of Representatives attempted to pass a measure that would have restored all veterans benefits during the government shutdown earlier in the week, but the vote was under a suspension calendar and required a 2/3 majority of the House to pass. While not a single Republican voted against the resolution, only 33 Democrats crossed the aisle and voted for the funding measure, ultimately not enough to pass the resolution in the lower chamber.
Cruz hit back at Durbin for not withdrawing his objection to Cruz’s request for unanimous consent. “This bill that has passed the House does not mention Obamacare. It simply says the exact same thing that my friend from Illinois already agreed to, which is that the active duty men and women of the military would not be held hostage and would be paid if it so happened that the Democrats forced a shutdown,” Cruz said.
“Now, apparently, the position of the majority of this body is that we have got a double standard, that reserve members are not treated as well as active duty members, that reserve members will not get their pay checks,” Cruz said. “Let’s be clear that this bill could be on the president’s desk for signature today if my friend from Illinois would simply withdraw his objection.”
Cruz claimed Durbin’s objection to be a reflection of “cynicism not befitting of the responsibility” members of Congress have. “My friend is prepared to object and to say that not just veterans but reserve members shall be held hostage in order to force Obamacare on the American people, that that is the objective. I guess now the Democratic Party has become the Party of Obamacare, by Obamacare and for Obamacare all of the time, and every other priority recedes.”
“So veterans are told your concerns do not matter unless we can use you as a hostage to force Obamacare on the American people,” he explained. “Mr. President, that’s cynical.”
Durbin took offense at Cruz’s remarks, retorting, “I would say to my colleague from Texas some of the language which he used in this debate relative to impugning the motives of other members may have crossed the line. I am not going to raise it at this point, but I ask him to be careful in the future. I object.”
Durbin’s criticism came on the same day that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) apologized for his insults in attacking Cruz over the government shutdown.
Support for slowing down the individual mandate of the healthcare law remains strong among House Republicans. Following a meeting with House members, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced on Friday that the GOP would not vote for a bill that did not at least delay Obamacare’s individual mandate.