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No clear path to a deal to avert government default: Lynn Sweet

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks news conference Sept. 19 WashingtD.C.  |  J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks at a news conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Updated: November 8, 2013 6:25AM



WASHINGTON — You may not have heard of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) before the partial federal government shutdown — but I bet you have by now, as we enter the second week of the standoff. Cruz is the chief architect of the shutdown strategy.

And while Cruz is grabbing the national limelight, it’s worth noting that none of the seven GOP Illinois lawmakers in Congress is strongly identifying with his brash brand of Tea Party politics. None of the seven from Illinois owes their election to the Tea Party movement.

Cruz and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised the already high ante on the Sunday shows.

The partial shutdown started last Tuesday, after House Republicans demanded the derailing of the health care law nicknamed Obamacare as the price Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama had to pay to pass a stopgap measure to continue to fund all of federal government past the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.

There is no path emerging toward an agreement. The already difficult politics are growing more complicated with the approaching Oct. 17 deadline for Congress to raise the debt ceiling or risk the nation’s first-ever default. President Barack Obama has said he will not negotiate over lifting the debt limit.

On Sunday, Boehner told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that he would not allow an up-or-down House vote to raise the debt ceiling.

“The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us,” Boehner said, making a conclusion that is at the least premature.

Stephanopoulos called him on that. Here’s the math. There are 200 Democrats in the House and almost all of them would vote to raise the debt ceiling. It takes 218 votes to pass a bill. There are 232 Republicans. Rather than risk sending the nation into economic turmoil, it is highly likely that enough votes could be found to avoid a default.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, told of Boehner’s comments while guesting on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” challenged Boehner’s assertions that the votes to prevent a default are not there.

“Well, then why doesn’t he put it on the floor and give it a chance,” Lew told Bob Schieffer.

Cruz is very interested in parlaying the shutdown and potential of a default.

He told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union”: “The debt ceiling historically has been among the best leverage that Congress has to rein in the executive.”

With the deadline looming, Cruz put his “demands” on the table.

“No. 1, we should look for some significant structural plan and reduce government spending. No. 2, we should avoid new taxes, and No. 3, we should look for ways to mitigate the harm from Obamacare,” Cruz said.

None of the Illinois Republican lawmakers in Congress backs Obamacare. None has allied with a rump group led by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y) that is against the shutdown strategy. None is an acolyte of Cruz. None is rocking the boat on the shutdown — with filing for the 2014 contests in Illinois open through Dec. 2.

Illinois GOP Representatives Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren, John Shimkus, Adam Kinzinger and Aaron Schock head into 2014 contests in very strong positions.

Sen. Mark Kirk is not up until 2016 and no one — Democrat or Republican — even talks about a challenge as he recovers from his stroke.

Roskam is 100 percent safe in 2014. As the chief deputy whip, he is one of Boehner’s top lieutenants. Roskam has the biggest media profile of any of the Illinois Republicans in the shutdown.

Rep. Rodney Davis is the only member of the delegation to face potentially major primary and general contests.

Kinzinger carved out a high profile on the debate over attacking Syria — he backed Obama — but is low-key on the shutdown. He faces a potential primary challenge from David Hale of Rockford, the leader of a local Tea Party movement.

Hultgren has one of the most conservative voting records in the Illinois delegation, according to the Heritage Foundation, and was elected with Tea Party backing.

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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