WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz's strategy of forcing a shutdown of the federal government is so ill-conceived that it will not only fail, but also could backfire and hurt Republicans so badly it might have been dreamed up by Democrats, Sen. Lamar Alexander argued Wednesday.
Alexander (R-Tenn.) took to the Senate floor to push for a more careful and persistent approach to ending President Barack Obama's marquee legislative achievement.
Citing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), who also thinks Cruz's strategy is unwise, Alexander noted that nearly all of Obamacare's funding is so-called mandatory spending that will continue to flow regardless of whether the government is paid for.
And while Obamacare proceeds, only somewhat hampered, Americans will be locked out of most governmental offices -- facing air traffic delays, blocked from getting gun permits, and stuck with a hefty bill later on, Alexander said. He pointed to a Congressional Research Service study that found the last government shutdown in the '90s cost taxpayers $1.4 billion.
"We'll have shut down the government, while 85 percent of the Obamacare keeps going, so what would we have accomplished?" Alexander said.
"If we shut down the government, Obamacare keeps going, it costs taxpayers a lot of money and inconveniences most Americans," Alexander said. "Which leads me to the last reason it's a bad idea. Who do you suspect is going to get blamed for this? We will have succeeded in shifting the blame for passing Obamacare from the Democrats, who did it unanimously, to the Republicans for shutting down the government.
"Now, you'd think the Democratic National Committee might have come up with that idea, not the Republican National Committee," Alexander said. "Now that might not be a good public policy reason to take a position here, but it is a fact, and people all over the country are observing it."
Alexander, whose take on the current impasse echoed many other leaders in his party, explained the strategy he favors by pointing to two figures from Tennessee and Texas history: Davy Crockett, famous for dying in the stand at the Alamo, and Sam Houston, who eventually defeated the Mexicans.
"We remember the Alamo, but we celebrate Texas Independence Day on March 2, 1836, because Sam Houston won the war," Alexander said.
"The moral of the story is that sometimes in a long battle, patience is a valuable tactic, and that's why I'm in Sam Houston's camp on this one," Alexander added. "I'm not in the 'shut down the government' camp on this one. I'm in the 'take over the government' camp, and elect some more Republican senators and then a Republican president, and then along the way delay, dismantle and replace the new health care law."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.