Tea Party-backed lawmakers defended their role in the budget showdown Wednesday as Congress voted on a bipartisan bill to end it, saying their fight against ObamaCare was worth the drama.
"Some say we shouldn't have fought because we couldn't win, but this country wasn't built by fighting only when victory was absolutely certain," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on the floor.
Lee, along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and dozens of conservatives in the House helped drive the confrontation with the White House and congressional Democrats. They started by demanding ObamaCare be defunded, before scaling back those demands -- but Democrats refused, and the impasse triggered the partial government shutdown on Oct. 1.
The short-term Senate deal would end the partial shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, but do very little in the way of ObamaCare.
Conservatives blasted the final product.
"This is a terrible deal," Cruz said on the floor.
As the debate appeared to wind down, though, moderate Republican lawmakers used the moment to scold their Tea Party colleagues and laid the blame partly at their feet.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the final bill was a "joke." He said the Republican brand has been hurt by the past couple weeks, and Republicans could have gotten more if they'd taken a more "reasonable" approach.
But conservatives vowed to keep up the fight against ObamaCare.
"This fight is not over. It's really only just begun," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said.
Lee said the law is a "slow-rolling trainwreck" that ultimately will have to be dealt with, pointing in part to problems with the federal government's main website for insurance enrollment. Lee also blasted the Senate "deal" as "Washington at its worse."
Cruz, despite his opposition to the bill, agreed not to filibuster it in the Senate, claiming that doing so would accomplish nothing.
"This debate and this fight will continue in the months ahead," the Tea Party-backed Cruz told a swarm of reporters. "Had Senate Republicans united and supported House Republicans, the outcome would have been different."
"People all over this country are losing the health care insurance they wanted and they liked," he said.