This is the week that the long-building fight by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to defund Obamacare comes to a head, as the U.S. Senate takes up a House-passed bill that funds all government functions through December but strips funding for the health care law. The so-called "continuing resolution" bill must pass both chambers of Congress by the end of the month in order to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1. It's a high stakes risk-reward game with Cruz at the center of it all. Last week, Sen. Cruz reiterated his determination to see this battle through. "As Churchill said, we will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the streets, we will fight at every step to stop the biggest job killer in America," he told Fox News.
That fight is about to get nasty. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said any bill without Obamacare funding is "dead on arrival" in the Senate, and the White House has threatened a Presidential veto even if any defunding bill were to pass. That has prompted Cruz to threaten a filibuster if Reid tries to add Obamacare funding back in and bring the bill up for a vote. Only nine months into his Senate career, Cruz has become the face of one of the biggest political issues in decades--the Obamacare fight. "This might be his most high-profile fight yet," says Rachel Van Dongen, Congressional Editor for POLITICO. "He's not only ruffling feathers with Democrats, he's ruffling feathers with Republicans, and it's not even clear if the Republican leadership in the Senate supports what he's doing."
Von Dongen tells KTRH she can't recall any freshman senator who's arrived on the scene in Washington like Cruz. "It's extremely rare, I mean you didn't even see Hillary Clinton when she came to the Senate make this big of a splash." Indeed, whether for positive or negative reasons, the junior senator from Texas has everyone's attention in Washington these days. All of that attention could either help or hurt Cruz's future ambitions like a run for the presidency. Van Dongen says that's why this Obamacare fight may have even bigger meaning for Sen. Cruz. "This could actually be a pretty telling week for Ted Cruz's national ambitions," she says. "People are saying look, does he know what he's doing or is this too big a gamble and something maybe where he's in a little bit over his head?"