U.S. Senate talkathon star and tea party darling Ted Cruz said Friday he has no plans to forfeit his paycheck if the federal government shuts down amid a nasty budget battle he's helping wage.
Fresh off his 21-plus-hour speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week, the Texas Republican addressed a conference in Austin via video-feed. When an audience member asked if he'd be willing to give up his government pay if Congress can't pass a spending bill to keep the government funded, it drew applause from some in the crowd.
Cruz objected to the premise, saying, "I don't think we should shut down the government." He said if that occurs, it will be the fault of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Democrats.
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But when pressed on giving up his salary specifically Cruz replied: "I will confess it is a question I have not given a significant amount of thought. At the current time, I have no intention of doing so."
It's a moot point, because members of Congress would continue to get paid if a shutdown happened. Their salaries are spelled out in permanent law. Still, it was a rare awkward moment for Cruz, a fiery public speaker being celebrated in national conservative circles.
Cruz took the Senate floor Tuesday and talked all night and into Wednesday afternoon, yielding only to Senate Republicans who asked long-winded questions so he could rest his voice. He has implored Congress to use the leverage of an impending government shutdown to strip funding for the White House-backed health care law.
When Cruz began his marathon speech, the U.S. House had passed a bill funding the government but cutting off funding for the health care law. But Cruz knew before he began that he couldn't stop Senate Democrats from stripping out the health care provision; that's why what he was doing wasn't technically a filibuster.
Political wrangling on a final bill continues. Cruz had planned to appear in Austin in person but instead addressed the conference from afar because the Senate is still in session.
First effects of a shutdown could show up as early as Tuesday if Congress fails to approve money to keep the government going by the midnight Monday start of the new fiscal year.
Cruz's all-night talk irked many of his Senate colleagues in both parties but has been cheered by tea party and other conservative activists. In office barely nine months, Cruz is already being mentioned as a possible presidential hopeful in 2016.
Asked Friday about White House aspirations, Cruz responded: "My hands are full with the U.S. Senate." He added that it was "100 percent of our focus."
When a questioner wanted to know why he had already traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two places to vote in presidential primaries, Cruz said he was simply trying to build opposition to the health care law.