- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters that Mitch McConnell was effectively no longer the Senate leader
- Senate GOP leadership has frustrated Cruz's attempt to permanently defund Planned Parenthood
Washington (CNN)Ted Cruz deemed Harry Reid as the head of the Republican Senate on Tuesday.
Cruz told reporters after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a resolution to temporarily fund the government that he felt the Kentucky Republican was no longer the leader of the body where the GOP holds an eight-seat majority.
"The position of Republican leadership boils down to this: They will support 100% of the priorities of Democrats," said Cruz, a Republican who is running for president. "Today, the leader in the Senate is Harry Reid because Republican leadership has said nothing will pass without Harry Reid's support. Today, the leader in the House is Nancy Pelosi."
Senate leadership has frustrated Cruz's attempt to permanently defund Planned Parenthood, which is under attack for secretly taped, edited videos that have tarnished the women's health group, as part of current budget talks. Republican leaders have said they have no appetite for risking a Cruz-led shutdown that would defund the organization.
Cruz has made Republicans his foil just as often as he has Democrats -- often criticizing the "McConnell-Reid leadership team" -- but the Texas senator's blast is the latest signal that his fight with top Senate Republicans is intensifying as the Sept. 30 budget deadline approaches. Republicans said Tuesday that Cruz did not attend the conference's regular lunch.
Democrats and Republican legislators are at a budget logjam over whether to continue public funding to Planned Parenthood. The White House has said they will not sign a budget that cuts funding for the organization, which funds women's health services beyond abortions, but congressional Republicans have said that defunding the group remains a top priority. Republican leadership, nervous about the political ramifications of a shutdown, are frustrated by conservatives -- like Cruz -- who want to stare down Democrats.
Cruz has circulated a letter asking for his fellow senators to commit to defunding the group, which is under investigation but has denied any wrongdoing. Cruz wouldn't say Tuesday whether or not any of his colleagues had signed on in solidarity.
McConnell on Tuesday moved to bring up a bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, a measure that would bar money for Planned Parenthood. But Senate Democrats are expected to filibuster the plan Thursday, moments after Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress. Then McConnell plans to bring up a clean funding bill -- without restrictions on the women's health group -- soon after to avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1.
It remains unclear how deep the presidential candidate will dig in his heels. Cruz led a partial shutdown over Obamacare in October 2013, but he declined to answer a question about whether he would wage a talking filibuster to stymie the funding bill this time around. He said Tuesday that avoiding a shutdown "on its face, sounds reasonable."
Cruz nevertheless indicated that McConnell's plan wouldn't suffice, saying that a continuing resolution should eliminate all of the group's public funding and also force the White House to reveal the full details of the nuclear agreement reached with Iran.
"We should not be content with simple show votes, which is Republican leadership's favorite strategy." said Cruz. "My focus is on urging leadership to actually lead."