Ted Cruz, no stranger himself to government funding fights, expressed concern Monday that the "Democratic radical left" would prompt a government shutdown in the coming weeks as Congress faces an April 28 deadline to pass a spending bill.
"You know, I very much hope we don't have a shutdown," Cruz told reporters. "I will say I’m concerned. I think [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown."
Cruz had a starring role in the 2013 government shutdown, which lasted 16 days and was prompted over failed efforts by Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act. Afterward, some Republicans blamed Cruz for helping instigate the shutdown without a realistic plan to prompt the Obama administration to blink on the issue.
"You know, one of the dynamics we’ve got is the Democratic radical left is demanding of Senate Democrats that they oppose everything, that they engage in across-the-board obstruction," Cruz said Monday. "And so I do have some concern that to appease the radical left, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats may do everything they can to try to provoke a shutdown."
This time around, the Trump administration has signaled it wants its priorities reflected in the spending bill that will be before lawmakers when they return from their two-week spring recess Monday. That could include funding for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, an idea that is anathema to Democrats who will have to provide some support to get the legislation across the finish line.
Asked Monday if he was willing to tie issues like funding for the border wall to the spending bill, Cruz said he believes Congress "should use the power of the purse, use appropriation, to implement good policy." However, he reserved judgment on which specific issues should be tied up in the legislation, saying he will wait until he reads the text of the bill.
Cruz made the comments after touring air conditioner manufacturer Daikin's factory in Waller County, where he also held a town hall with employees.
Speaking with reporters, Cruz reflected on the failure of House Republicans earlier this year to pass legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare as Congressional leaders consider their strategy on the next item on the Trump agenda: tax reform.
“What needs to occur with tax reform is sadly what didn’t happen on the front end with Obamacare repeal," Cruz said, adding that the House's Obamacare plan "was drafted behind closed doors, was sprung on the world and then the view of leadership was that no meaningful changes would be made and anyone who opposed would simply beaten into submission."
"I don't think that's how you get people to yes," Cruz told reporters.
One tax reform proposal that some House GOP leaders support is a so-called "border adjustment tax" that would levy a 20 percent tax on imports from all countries. Some Texas Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, are skeptical of the tax, worried it could negatively impact the state's economy, while Democrats — including U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, who is weighing a Cruz challenge — have attacked Cruz for what they say is his support for it.
Cruz acknowledged Monday that as a 2016 presidential candidate he campaigned on a tax plan that "had an aspect of border adjustability on the business flat tax" but said his plan would not have been as onerous because it was coupled with a simple flat tax that got rid of other taxes. As for whether the border adjustment tax should factor into the current tax reform push in Congress, Cruz declined to say but noted some of the concerns he has heard.
"There’s no doubt that one of the most controversial aspects of the House tax plan is border adjustability, and I think there are many folks in our economy who are concerned about the impact that it would have, particularly on retailers, and those arguments carry considerable weight," Cruz said Monday. "I know in the Senate, there are a number of senators who are deeply concerned about that aspect."