Kelly Ayotte challenges Ted Cruz’s government shutdown strategy

As Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leads the charge to defund Planned Parenthood, a move that could set off a government shutdown for the second time in two years, fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte has challenged him to reveal his “strategy for success.”

In a letter to the Republican presidential candidate this week, Ayotte defended Cruz’s underlying reason for wanting to slash funding from the reproductive health service group, saying she too is “deeply disturbed” by the videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. However, she questioned whether Cruz’s move would yield any success, particularly given that government funding is set to run out at the end of the month. 

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“Given the challenges and threats we face at home and abroad, I oppose risking a government shutdown, particularly when it appears there is no chance of achieving a successful result,” the New Hampshire senator wrote in a letter to Cruz. “Nevertheless, as I understand it, you have been circulating a letter to our colleagues asking them to oppose any government funding bill that continues to authorize funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Ayotte, who is not a supporter of Planned Parenthood, voted last month to defund the group. That bill received 53 votes in the Senate, short of the 60 votes it needed to pass.

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“How do we get 60 votes? And if for some reason there were 60 votes, how do we get 67 votes in the Senate to overcome a Presidential veto?” Ayotte asked in her letter. “During the last government shutdown, I repeatedly asked you what your strategy for success was when we did not have the votes to achieve the goal of defunding Obamacare, but I did not receive an answer.”

President Barack Obama has repeatedly vowed to veto any bill to defund the group, and Senate Democrats have also promised to block any measure defunding the reproductive health service group.

The president on Saturday used his weekly online address to urge the Republican-controlled Congress to pass the budget.

“If Republicans want to help, they can choose, right now, to pass a budget that helps us grow our economy even faster, create jobs even faster, lift people’s incomes and prospects even faster,” he said. “But they’ve only got until the end of the month to do it — or they’ll shut down our government for the second time in two years.”

The last government shutdown happened in 2013. It lasted for 16-days and cost taxpayers more than $2.5 billion. At the time, Republicans attempted to derail the president’s health care reforms, after Cruz took a stand on the Affordable Care Act. Now they are now refusing to back any plan that provides Planned Parenthood with federal funds.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Friday to discuss the possibility of a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood, Ayotte again urged Cruz to put forward a concrete plan.

“What this seems to be about is people pushing a position with no strategy for success,” she said. “And as a leader we have a duty not to shut the government down and that’s why I’m asking this question.” 

Kelly Ayotte, Planned Parenthood and Ted Cruz

Kelly Ayotte challenges Ted Cruz's government shutdown strategy