By David Lawder and Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON, Oct 16 (Reuters) - A defiant Senator Ted Cruzrailed against a bipartisan U.S. Senate deal to lift the federaldebt limit and reopen the government on Wednesday, but said hewould not try to block or delay its passage.
Cruz, a conservative Texas Republican, said he would voteagainst the measure because it provides no relief to Americansfrom what he calls the harmful effects of "Obamacare" healthinsurance reforms. However, he said that at this point there wasnothing to gain from taking procedural measures to delay it.
Cruz has waged a weeks-long campaign to persuade Republicansto use the threat of a government shutdown and failure to liftthe federal debt limit as leverage to defund, delay, orotherwise undermine President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
"The timing of the vote will make no difference in theoutcome, and so I don't intend to delay the timing of the vote.I intend to vote no," Cruz told reporters. "It will be a baddeal for the American people today, tomorrow or the next day."
Under Senate rules, any senator can object to pendinglegislation, a move that would require a 60-vote majority toproceed to a yes or no vote. The process requires several daysto complete, and with the U.S. Treasury set to exhaust itsborrowing capacity on Thursday, time for passage is runningshort.
In a campaign-style speech before cameras as the Senate dealwas announced, Cruz said the bipartisan plan reflected "the"traditional approach of the Washington establishment ofmaintaining the status quo and doing nothing to respond to thesuffering that Obamacare is causing to millions of Americans."
Although the health reform is aimed at providing affordable care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans, Cruz and otherRepublicans blame it for causing premiums to rise in some areasand for prompting companies to reduce hiring or to shiftemployees from full-time work to part-time work.
In the end, the only Obamacare concession in Wednesday'sSenate-negotiated deal was the inclusion of a provisionrequiring that those applying for insurance subsidies verifytheir income.
Government-run health insurance exchanges started operatingon Oct. 1, and the deal does not alter a requirement thatindividuals obtain coverage starting on Jan. 1 or pay a taxpenalty. The deal still requires passage in both the Senate andHouse of Representatives.
Lawmakers and aides from both parties on Capitol Hill havecriticized Cruz for using his fight against Obamacare, whichincluded a well-publicized 21-hour speech on the Senate floor,as a personal platform to seek the Republican presidentialnomination in 2016. The Tea Party firebrand won election to theSenate only last November.
Although Cruz has not announced his formal intention to runfor president, some political analysts say the fame he hasgained from his recent efforts has elevated him to a leadingRepublican contender, alongside House Budget Committee ChairmanPaul Ryan, the party's 2012 vice presidential candidate, andfellow conservative Senator Rand Paul.
Cruz defended his efforts to use the fiscal deadlines to tryto thwart Obamacare, saying he was doing what Americans wanted.
Despite the government shutdown, which has forced thetemporary layoff of hundreds of thousands of governmentemployees, and angst in financial markets as to whether theUnited States would default on its obligations, Cruz said theeffort was worth it as it had caused "millions upon millions ofpeople rise up" against Obamacare.
He praised House Republicans, whose demands for Obamacareconcessions - and their refusal by Democrats - forced much ofthe government to close on Oct. 1.
"We saw the House of Representatives take courageous standlistening to the American people, that everyone in officialWashington just weeks ago said would never happen. That was aremarkable victory to see the House engage in a profile incourage."
He blamed the failure to stop the health care law on SenateRepublicans who had failed to unite in the fight over the fiscaldeadlines.
"I would point out, that had Senate Republicans united, andsupported House Republicans, the outcome of this I believewould've been very, very different," he said.
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