Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who built his reputation as a firebrand by taking on the GOP leadership, might have to become its ally to deliver a long-promised GOP healthcare bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The alliance becomes more crucial as Senate leaders struggle to build conservative support for an emerging bill that has yet to win over hard-right Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah – two defections that would complicate passage, The Washington Post reported.
"I've seen him come along and be pretty constructive," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the newspaper.
But the dilemma of whether to back a final bill that falls short of a forceful repeal he has championed – or walk away – looms, the Post reported.
"I've said from day one that I want to get to yes," Cruz said, the Post reported. "The consequences would be terrible to fail," adding: "Even worse than not passing a bill is passing a bill that makes the problems worse."
A Cruz confidant, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said it is a difficult choice.
"There's great pressure to get something done, but I think there's an equal and opposite pressure that it be something that actually fulfills campaign promises," Meadows told the Post.
"Just to check the box for political reasons, I don't think Sen. Cruz would ultimately support that."
But his allies see few upsides to opposing the Senate repeal bill even if it is imperfect – and argues voting "no" would be tough to sell to his conservative base, the Post reported.
"You have to be able to explain in a tweet," an unnamed Cruz associate told the Post.
An unnamed adviser likened Cruz's approach to a baseball umpire with "a big-strike-zone mentality right now" – giving his GOP colleagues and their ideas the benefit of the doubt in the ongoing talks.
Cruz told the Post, however, he is not "not remotely" compelled to vote for just any GOP healthcare bill to protect his image.
"We've got to solve the underlying problem," he told the Post. "In my view we must, number one, honor our commitment to repeal Obamacare, and number two, implement reforms that lower premiums."
But there are other factors that could sink the Senate effort over which Cruz has little control, the Post reported: opposition by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, to a measure that blocks funding to Planned Parenthood is among them.
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