Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) lashed out at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Friday, saying House Republicans were “tired of being abused” by the Tea Party favorite who talks big about defunding ObamaCare but won’t “get in the ring” now that it’s time to fight.
"There was so much anger, so much frustration, because again, we’ve been abused by these guys for so long, and what I see happening now is people coming out now and calling them out for the hypocrisy of these big tough conservatives who know how to fight but will never get in the ring," he added.
“They can hold a filibuster in the Senate if they want, but they can’t hold the Senate conservatives together, and they keep trying to put this fight in the House. They … can have this fight as long as they want, and they’re not willing to do it."
A spokeswoman for Cruz quickly shot back, accusing Duffy of mischaracterizing the senator's words.
Cruz never said he wouldn't fight for defunding ObamaCare in the Senate, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier wrote in an email to The Hill.
“Sen. Cruz has never said those words … he’s attributing words to Cruz that he’s simply never said,” Frazier wrote.
“There are a number of ways that Republicans can use tools to influence the legislative process and from the beginning Cruz has said all options are on the table,” she added. “The Senate has the votes if Republicans demand a 60 vote threshold. Anyone who's been listening to everything the senator has done and said understands that he's in this fight to win it, and to suggest he's said or done anything to the contrary is blatantly misleading. We can win if Republicans in both houses stand strong and if Americans continue to demand of their elected officials to do the right thing.”
Cruz is at the center of Republican infighting over the strategy of tying ObamaCare defunding to a measure that would keep the government operating past Sept. 30. The House will vote on a measure including the two items on Friday.
House Republicans say Cruz and his allies in the Senate have been promising their constituents that there is a real chance Republicans can defund ObamaCare but are now backing down because of what should’ve been apparent all along: the resolution will never make it out of the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Senate Democrats plan to strip the ObamaCare language from the measure and will use a procedural rule that allows this to be done with a majority vote.
Earlier this week, Cruz released a statement saying that once the Senate strips the resolution of the measure that defunds ObamaCare, the House should continue to fight, even if it means a government shutdown.
Duffy called out Cruz Friday over the release, saying he was “waving the white flag.”
“We came out with a strategy that we were going to hold a vote to defund ObamaCare, give Ted Cruz and some of the others what they wanted,” he said. “Several hours later, he sent out a press release while we were on the floor voting, he sent out a press release saying, well we can’t really hold the Senate; we’re not going to filibuster; we’re not going to fight, and the House has to hold.”
The infighting started when a handful of lawmakers' aides anonymously blasted Cruz in various Capitol Hill publications. But since then, a number of high profile Republicans in both chambers — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), among them — have begun publicly questioning Cruz’s tactics.
“All summer long, as these ads have been running, as they’ve been holding town halls and raising money, we’ve kept a lid on our anger in the House as we’ve been the punching bag and bullied by some of these conservatives,” Duffy said. “And so now with the CR [continuing resolution] vote that’s going to come today, we’re going to give them exactly what they asked for — the opportunity to fight ObamaCare.”
Duffy said Friday there were days in Congress where House lawmakers couldn’t get any work done because constituents flooded the phone lines demanding he and others take up Cruz’s cause to defund ObamaCare.
“And you saw us explode publicly when they started waving the white flag and saying, listen, we’re not going to fight here. We’re going to send it back to the House, and they can fight it there.”
— Julian Hattem contributed
— This story was posted at 7:46 a.m. and updated at 8:55 a.m.