Ted Cruz’s Agitator Past Leaves Some Wary of His Bid to Overhaul Obamacare

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WASHINGTON -- As Republicans scramble to salvage plans to overturn the Affordable Care Act, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he’s trying to be helpful.That’s why for weeks he’s been in talks with the White House and lawmakers over dismantling the health care law he’s long blasted, an effort that collapsed last month when Speaker Paul Ryan, facing conservative-led opposition, withdrew his legislation.Members of the House Freedom Caucus say the Texas senator has been a critical adviser in negotiations over repealing Obamacare, talks that were reopened this week as GOP leaders seek to make good on the campaign pledge.But Cruz’s history in stirring up the right wing in the House against GOP leadership -- not to mention shutting down the government in a failed bid to defund Obamacare -- has some lawmakers wary.“I still carry some concern about what his intentions are and what he’s trying to do, to the health care bill and in general,” said New York Rep. Tom Reed, a moderate Republican and member of the Ways and Means Committee. “Is it more about positioning for presidential politics? Is it sincerely an effort to get to yes so we can move this ball down the field, or some other agenda?”Some whisper that, even though Cruz isn't out front in opposing Ryan’s American Health Care Act like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, he undermined President Donald Trump and leadership by criticizing the GOP’s first pass at undoing the law.In the weeks leading up to the March 24 showdown, Cruz repeatedly said the bill wouldn’t do enough to lower premiums, an assessment backed up by a Congressional Budget Office report that found rates would rise 15 to 20 percent in the early years of the overhaul.Cruz didn't advise Freedom Caucus members to oppose it, but called for Republicans to renegotiate the legislation.New York Rep. Chris Collins, a Trump supporter and member of the moderate Tuesday Group, blamed Cruz along with Freedom Caucus for its demise last month. Many moderates opposed Ryan's bill after GOP leaders made concessions to conservatives in the days leading up to the vote.“He’s definitely a hindrance ... He spends more time in the House with the Freedom Caucus than in the Senate because nobody likes him in the Senate, and that hasn’t changed,” said Collins, who in the peak of his rant against Cruz, swapped his first name with that of a Hollywood actor. “Anyone who thinks Tom Cruz is trying to be helpful doesn’t know Tom Cruz.”But others suggest those criticisms are off-base.“He’s been honestly very masterful in trying to reach consensus,” said North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, who said he and Cruz have been in constant communication over health care. “The senator has typically been the guy out there leading the charge, and this role was a very different one for him, but probably even more critical than I could ever imagine.”  Continue reading...

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