WASHINGTON — Will Texas Sen. Ted Cruz be the Grinch who stole the weekend again?

With one week left before a government shutdown, the Republican presidential candidate is prepared to pull out all the stops to prevent smooth passage of a funding bill that includes federal dollars for Planned Parenthood.

He’s ready to force the Senate to work Saturday in protest of a status-quo funding bill, which Republican leaders see as the only option to prevent a shutdown. Cruz sees the debate as the moment to make his stand.

“The only way to actually defund Planned Parenthood is to include it on must-pass legislation like the continuing resolution,” Cruz said. “It’s the reason why Republican leadership wants a show vote. They know they’ll lose instead of actually using their constitutional authority.”

Forcing a Saturday session would be reminiscent of December when the Texan delayed a funding vote into a weekend in an attempt to halt President Obama’s immigration policies. The gambit failed. Now he’s ready to capitalize on conservative anger at Planned Parenthood.

“It ought to be a simple matter for Republican leadership to stand for something,” Cruz said, “and say at a minimum we’re not going to send taxpayer money to a private organization that is under ongoing criminal investigation.”


Cruz wants to force a government shutdown at the end of the month if Democrats don’t relent, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly opposed that strategy as it relates to Planned Parenthood funding.

In a letter circulating last week, Cruz asked colleagues to promise not to vote to fund the government unless Planned Parenthood money is stripped. According to a Senate Republican aide, Cruz had just one signatory – Louisiana Sen. David Vitter – by the end of last week.

McConnell has scheduled a procedural vote for Thursday on a funding bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. Democrats have the votes to block it. Next, the Republican leader is expected to seek unanimous consent to hold a quick vote on a “clean” stopgap bill that funds the government through Dec. 11. That’s where Cruz comes in. Any one senator can object to a speedy vote on legislation, and force an intervening day after the motion is filed.

Cruz said he’s prepared to oppose consent for a “clean” funding bill on Thursday. In that case the earliest it could get a vote is Saturday.

The timing of the vote “depends entirely on the level of cooperation,” said third-ranked Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. He said he wasn’t sure if Cruz would cooperate. “I can’t imagine the Dems would object to” smooth passage of a clean funding bill, Thune said.

“Senator Cruz and a few others are in the race for presidency,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. “They’re trying to separate themselves from the pack. Right now, Senator Cruz obviously thinks the Senate floor is where he can make his best effort, and we’re going to pay the price in terms of whatever he decides to do.”

A potential problem with the plan is that Cruz’s schedule places him in Iowa on Saturday.

Two other Republican presidential hopefuls in the Senate, Florida’s Marco Rubio and Kentucky’s Rand Paul, support defunding Planned Parenthood. But they haven’t explicitly backed Cruz’s strategy.

Cruz’s presidential strategy focuses on Iowa, where social conservatives won Republican caucuses in 2008 and 2012.

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