OTR Interviews

Sen. Ted Cruz: Government shutdown depends on Obama, Reid

Senator Ted Cruz: Pres. Obama and House Majority Leader Reid will determine whether there's a government shutdown, says he's not interested in a 'political victory' in ObamaCare battle


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 27, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Even the Senate chaplain is fed up!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord, deliver us governing by crisis.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: ObamaCare is the single largest job killer in this country!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The false promises of ObamaCare have been shattered by the harsh realities!

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the Tea Party that they've threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are at one of the most dangerous points in our history right now, every bit as dangerous of the breakup of the union before the Civil War.

CRUZ: Senate Democrats are not listening to the millions of Americans who are being hurt by ObamaCare!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't kid yourself to think this isn't a road to socialized medicine if we end up not being able to do something about ObamaCare!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're (INAUDIBLE) negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped their chests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only phrase that describes it is political terrorism.

CRUZ: I hope the Senate Democrats begin listening to young people, that they begin listening to single moms, that they begin listening to immigrants, they begin listening to people who are retired, people with disabilities, that they begin listening to married people, that they begin listening to union workers!

SEN. ED MARKEY, D-MASS.: To the old, to the sick, to the needy, to every single principle of the United States of America that we stand for, it's off with their heads!

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT.: ... because a handful of right-wing extremists are so determined to try to destroy this president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is how a country goes broke! This is how a country goes broke!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope the good guys win.

CRUZ: We listened to the American people the way Senate Democrats are not!

OBAMA: Knock it off. Pass a budget, and move on.


VAN SUSTEREN: ... he is not giving up the fight to defeat ObamaCare. Senator Cruz joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS: Greta, it's always great to be back.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Senate vote today, 79 to 19, 25 Republicans crossed over and voted with the Democrats. And you say it's not over. So where does it go from here?

CRUZ: Well, it goes from here to the House of Representatives. And last week, the House stood strong. They passed a strong bill that defunded ObamaCare. They listened to the people.

And I am hopeful and optimistic they're going to continue to do the same thing. They're going to pass another strong bill and they're going to send it back to the Senate. And it's going to be back in our lap, and I hope this time, when it comes back to the Senate that Senate Republicans come together and stand shoulder to shoulder with House Republicans to actually fix this disaster of a law.

VAN SUSTEREN: What makes you think that would happen? Because if it goes back to the -- or it's going back to the House, and let's say the House puts back in the defunding of ObamaCare, the same bill, and then ships it back across to the Senate, why would you expect the Senate vote to be any different this time around?

CRUZ: Well, I don't know if they'll put the same language back in or if they'll do something else. What I think is critical is that they act to stop the harmful consequences that millions of Americans are feeling because of ObamaCare.

You know, one of the things we really tried to focus on this week is all of the millions of Americans who are struggling to find jobs because of ObamaCare, who are facing the threat of being forcibly reduced to part- time work, to 29 hours a week, because of ObamaCare, who are seeing skyrocketing health insurance premiums because of ObamaCare and who are seeing their health care taken away or threatened to be taken away because of ObamaCare.

And what I think is critical is that the House step up and stop that damage, stand for the American people. And if they do that, I hope the second time around -- it's an opportunity for Senate Republicans all to come home and for us to stand united, and I hope that's what we do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I guess I'm a little bit -- I don't think that's likely to happen in the Senate. But I don't know. You know the Senate better than I do. But I don't think the vote is going to -- is likely to change.

Would you be satisfied if the House bill that came back to the Senate was one that delayed ObamaCare for one year, didn't defund it but delayed it for a year? Is that something that you could stand behind?

CRUZ: Look, I don't want to dictate terms to the House of Representatives. There are 435 members in the House. Each is elected in their districts and each member has to be accountable to his or her constituents.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that would -- I mean, is that something, though, is that -- do you consider it something that would be effective in your strategy if you could put it off for one year? For you.

CRUZ: For me, what I have said is that I will not vote for any continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare because I think ObamaCare is a disaster. I think it's a train wreck. I think it's a nightmare. You know, I'll note the last two terms, train wreck is what the Democratic senator, the lead author of ObamaCare called it, and nightmare is what James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters called it.

And so from my end, I'm not going to vote for any continuing resolution that funds it, and I hope that the House continues doing what they do. I mean, I really want to salute Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor and House leadership for joining arm in arm, bringing together all the Republicans in the House to listen to the American people. That's what they did last time, and I hope and believe they'll continue to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I guess -- I mean, I don't want to beat -- want to beat a dead horse, so I understand, is that if they -- if they came back, the House, and said there are two choices, one is we'll revisit it in a year, or two, that they'll postpone it in a year -- I guess revisit in a year would not be a funding, right? So that's probably something you could live with? Don't know?

CRUZ: Anything that stops the harmful consequences of ObamaCare for millions of Americans is a good thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: For a year, or do you want it definitively decided now?

CRUZ: Look, if you ask me what I'd like, I'd like it for all time, but I'm certainly someone who will take -- what's critical is are we actually fighting for the people and we're making their lives better? And if we're doing that, we're doing our jobs.

And so I'm much more interested in the substance. Are we stopping the harms from ObamaCare that millions of Americans are suffering? And if we are, that's good. And if we're not -- you know, what I'm not interested in that a lot of people in Washington sometimes focus on is just a political victory. What matters is the substance, standing up and stopping this train wreck of a law.

VAN SUSTEREN: Suppose hypothetically that the U.S. Senate agreed with you and that today the vote went your way and they -- ObamaCare is defunded, but the continuing resolution funds the government for 45 days. Do you have any problem with that sort of, like, limping along aspect of it? Because that's the second part of this, is that -- you know, is that we -- that we have these ridiculous -- that's my view -- you know, 45 days we're going to fund the government and we're back talking about it again, instead of a -- you know, a real solid economic plan.

CRUZ: Well, you know, there are a couple of causes for that. I mean, one is that Congress for a long time hasn't done its job, hasn't passed the appropriation bills that we're supposed to pass. And if we passed the appropriation bills, if we'd made the hard decisions about where to spend and where to cut, we wouldn't have a continuing resolution at all. That only happens when Congress hasn't appropriated, as we haven't this year.

But -- but secondly, if you look at government by crisis, it doesn't have to happen. Senator Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio, has a bill that he's introduced that would take continuing resolutions and take shutdowns off the table, would say, in the event that a continuing resolution doesn't pass, you don't have a shutdown. You simply continue, and gradually, government funding goes down, but it doesn't just go off a cliff.

Now, the Democrats don't want to pass that. Why? Because they want government by crisis. Likewise, the House in the continuing resolution they just passed had a provision called the full faith and credit law, and what I like to call it is the default prevention act, which says if the debt ceiling isn't raised, the United States will never, ever, ever default on its debt. It's a great common sense provision.

The Democrats just voted to strip it out. The Democrats stood together, and what they said -- it's interesting, Harry Reid now ridicules that provision as the, quote, "pay China first law."

And so the Democrats are now all on record saying they affirmatively want to use the risk of a default to scare the American people and they affirmatively want to use the risk of a government shutdown to scare the American people. I think that's irresponsible. I think we ought to do our jobs.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, give me little behind the scenes. When you see Senator Harry Reid on the floor in the last 24 hours, what's it look? Do you look each other in the face or you sort of look away or you say, Hi, how are you doing? What's it like on the floor?

CRUZ: Oh, all the senators are cordial with each other. I mean, you know, they're not necessarily the warmest, chummiest relationships, but everyone treats each other civilly. And that's the way it should be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it sounds pretty -- but it's -- you know, it doesn't sound that civil. I mean, I heard right after you -- after you (INAUDIBLE) on the floor the other day when the time ran out, is Senator Harry Reid, his response was, is that it was a waste of time. I mean, he - - you know, there was no sort of, like, you know, I don't agree with you, Senator, but 21 hours and 19 minutes, that's -- you know, that's pretty amazing, but I don't agree with you. He could have said it that way. But instead, he -- you know, he was insulting.

CRUZ: Well, you know, it may not have been the height of graciousness. But look, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, bickering back and forth between a handful of Washington politicians. Most people don't care. What matters, I think, is the substance.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I think it does matter a little bit, and that it sort of tells the American people, I mean, are we watching sort of a schoolyard brawl, or are we watching people with deep ideological differences, and you know, and we're having a -- you know, a debate, and maybe sometimes you can convince someone or persuade someone or negotiate or something. But when it gets down to a little bit of the name calling, it's -- you know, it's unseemly, I think.

CRUZ: Well, you know, I mean, Harry Reid has made that decision to do that before. I mean, he has called, I guess, those of us who are trying to defund ObamaCare anarchists. He's previously called me and I think a schoolyard bully. And I'll tell you, Greta, I don't reciprocate. I haven't reciprocated...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you called Senator McCain...

CRUZ: ... and I don't intend to.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... an appeaser -- I mean, Senator McCain at least thinks that in some ways, you called him -- the Republicans who don't agree, the appeasers. And they were insulted by that.

CRUZ: Well, the focus that I try to keep throughout the filibuster and throughout this discussion is on the substance of the bill. And the point I made -- I mean, look, there was an extended discussion there, that when we started defunding, there were voices, there were pundits, there were all those in the Republican parties who went out and said, We can't win, we can't win, we can't win, we can't win.

And the more you say that, the more it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. It is true, if Republicans turn their guns on ourselves and begin shooting those of us who are trying to stop ObamaCare, it makes it much harder to win.

And so I went through the centuries of all of the battles in the United States, all of the great challenges we've taken on, whether it was the revolutionary war, the Civil War or World War II or going to the moon or winning the cold war, where the voices of conventional wisdom said, It can't be done, and American spirit, when we united, said it could be done.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about the phone call that you had with the House Republicans yesterday? What was that like?

CRUZ: Oh, it was -- we have had ongoing conversations with House members for a long time, and certainly will continue to do so.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many were on your call? I mean, the American people don't know the sort of behind the scenes. I mean, are there 20, 30, 45...

CRUZ: You know, I don't want to get into the specifics of internal conversations. But there have been and will continue to be ongoing conversations with individual members who share the objective of stopping ObamaCare, and certainly brainstorming, sharing ideas, sharing my views of what I think's going to happen in the Senate and trying to think through and strategize.

You know, frankly, we ought to be doing a lot more of that. One of the strange things about Washington, one of the things that I think most people would be really surprised about is how little coordination there usually is between the House and Senate. It's almost like they're two separate nations. And given that we got to both work together to pass something into law, I think there ought to be more conversations like the ones we've been having.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of -- I've heard you speak before, and Pat Buchanan spoke on our show the other night, about this continuing resolution that's going -- that's being pinged back to the House now -- what if it were split into different pieces, funding for different aspects, like funding for the Defense Department, the Pentagon? Is that a -- is there any impediment to doing that other -- at all?

CRUZ: Look, I...

VAN SUSTEREN: And why -- why would that be a strategy that the Republicans would not embrace? I guess -- I mean, why would they not embrace that?

CRUZ: Listen, I think that's a terrific idea and I've been...

VAN SUSTEREN: That wasn't my idea. I think that actually was your idea.

CRUZ: Well, OK, so...

VAN SUSTEREN: No wonder you say it's terrific!

CRUZ: I may be a little bit biased towards it. But listen, everyone's wondering now, are we going to have a government shutdown, and that depends on Harry Reid and President Obama. If they decide they want to force a government shutdown, then we'll have one.

I don't think we should. I think we should keep the government running. I think it would be irresponsible for Harry Reid and President Obama to force a shutdown. But if that happens -- and we've had many shutdowns in the past. It hasn't been the end of the world. I don't think we should have one now. But if that happens, a very effective tool the House can use -- because part of the games that this administration is likely to play in the shutdown is to try to pick the most sympathetic instances and hold them hostage, kind of like we were talking about with the debt ceiling. They want to threaten a default to scare the American people.

And it's -- there's no rule that says a continuing resolution has to cover every bit of the federal government. And so in my view, particularly if Harry Reid has forced a shutdown with President Obama, I think it makes a lot of sense for the House to pass a very simply continuing resolution focused first on the military. We'll fund the military because no matter what happens, we should never threaten to cut off funding for the men and women in the military.

Now, look, existing federal law gives President Obama all the authority he needs to fund the military, even if there is a shutdown. But the Democrats are threatening that, and so if they pass a simple CR that funds the military, sends it over to the Senate, I think it'd be very, very difficult for Harry Reid to refuse to fund the military. Just clean, don't even mention ObamaCare. Should we fund the military, yes or no?

I'm not sure you're going to get a whole lot of Democrats who want to vote no on that on a clean vote and do it one at a time, one after the other after the other.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why wouldn't Speaker Boehner want to use that strategy? What's the argument against it from the Republican standpoint in the House?

CRUZ: You know, I don't know. I don't know. I haven't had that conversation with the speaker, so I don't want to put words in his mouth. And I don't know. He may well follow that strategy. I don't know if he will or not. I think it makes sense. I've suggested it to some folks. They may decide to follow another strategy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you.

CRUZ: It's always great to see you, Greta. Thank you.