Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News
Former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said the recent battle over Obamacare, government funding and the fiscal cliff isn’t new in Washington, but the political mood is different.
Former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has been out of office for nearly a year, but she is still paying attention to what’s happening in the Washington D.C.
“There’s a lot of frustration in Washington," Hutchison said. "I was there a few weeks ago. A lot of frustration,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison said the recent battle over Obamacare, government funding and the fiscal cliff isn’t new in Washington, but the political mood is different.
“I don’t like being on this cliff," Hutchison said. "I was there on New Year’s Eve last year and we were on the fiscal cliff. We are on the cliff, midnight deadline, and we finally come together. I was hoping this would be settled much earlier, but the divisions are very deep. I agree that they are deep. And we didn’t get to the real point early enough. The real point is spending.”
The divisions that Hutchison was talking about are the divisions in the GOP caucus in both the House and Senate. Tea Party Republicans, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Utah Senator Mike Lee, pushed to defund Obamacare and if necessary, shut down the government to do so.
Hutchison said the fight should not have gone so far as to shut down the government.
“An outlier group, which is what I said, started talking about Obamacare, which is not a fight we could win,” Hutchison said. “I don’t think it was the right fight at this particular time. I think we should have had the debt ceiling fight on the issue of spending, that’s where we should have used our leverage.”
Hutchison didn’t mention Senator Cruz by name, but said the “all or nothing” style of politics of certain Senators won’t work well in Washington.
“If you’re in a body that is 535 people, you can’t expect to get your way 100 percent,” Hutchison said. “If you want a platform, that’s a different question. You can speak and you can have a platform. If you actually want to achieve results and run the government that you have run to represent, you have to be able to say, look, here is what I want the most, let’s work out as close as I can get, but I know it’s not going to be 100 percent.”
Several Senate Republicans were criticized by Tea Party groups on social media for trying to shift the fight from Obamacare to spending limits. Hutchison believes it was unfair criticism.
“You talk about Tom Coburn and Pat Toomey, they are two of the most conservative senator that we have, and they said right from the very beginning, we shouldn’t be talking about shutting down government on something we can’t control. We need to talk about something were we can make a difference, and that is the level of spending,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison also thinks President Obama shares some of the blame for the shutdown. Hutchison points to the President’s lack of willingness to negotiate early on in the process was a problem. But she was careful not to directly criticize GOP leadership when the fight shifted from spending limits to Obamacare.
“I don’t think they had a choice. I think the leaders tried very hard to keep it on the spending level,” Hutchison said. “
We should have had a united front on the issue of spending and I believe now that the issue is going to be debt limit.”
In the end, Hutchison is happy that the Senate ended up leading the way to end the government shutdown.
“The Senators are coming through as the adults in the room," Hutchison said. "I think some of the most conservative Senators said from the beginning, we should be fighting on spending levels, not Obamacare."