Senator Ted Cruz was all set to revamp his image. Instead of the agitator, he was going to become the deal maker, the man who made it possible to actually repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, fulfilling a campaign promise Cruz and so many other Republicans have been chanting for years now.
The Republican health care bill introduced in June struggled to gain traction in the Senate — it had to pass with 50 votes, a problem since all Democrats and at least ten of the 52 Republicans were openly against the bill — so Senate leaders looked for a compromise that would mollify both the far-right conservatives, who felt the bill did not cut enough spending on health care, and the moderates, who thought it cut too much.
First Cruz cooked up trouble as the ringleader of a crew of conservative senators who announced they would not vote in favor of the bill as it was. This was a potentially brilliant idea, since it drove the bill to the right and lost the support of moderate Republicans.
And then Cruz got ready to ride in and save the day.
As we've noted before, Cruz has been holding meetings in his office for months trying to cobble together a solution that would bring enough moderates and conservatives to the table to ensure a health care bill would pass. He came up with a fix, an amendment that would allow insurers a loophole: As long as the insurance companies offered one Obamacare-approved plan in a state, the companies could offer cheaper, bare-bones policies that would be unregulated by the law. It was a fix that both wings of the party could support, and in one fell swoop Cruz, who is up for re-election in 2018, would be the savior who actually repealed and replaced Obamacare.
But, of course, things didn't work out that way.
On Monday the Republican health care plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, met its abrupt demise when four Republican senators announced they would not support beginning debate on the bill, let alone voting for it when the time came. And then on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he was going with the backup plan to simply repeal the ACA and replace it later.
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And then by Tuesday afternoon, it became clear that this plan was also dead in the water.
So now it is unclear what the Senate GOP leadership will do next, but one thing is pretty obvious. While Cruz had positioned himself to be the hero of the day, he has ended up being part of the reason that the Obamacare repeal effort has failed spectacularly, possibly for the final time.
Now the question is, will Cruz get credit for trying to change his stripes and become a unifier of the party, or will he be blamed for his efforts to weasel his way into being the party's savior in gutting the ACA?
Based on the fact that Cruz is still loathed by many of his colleagues in the Senate, we're betting on the second option.