As the administration touted new health insurance enrollment numbers on Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas predicted a Republican president would undo the entirety of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement upon taking office in 2017.
“I believe in January of 2017 a new Republican is going to enter the White House and in 2017 is going to sign legislation repealing every word of Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said, speaking at the “Politics and Eggs” event in Manchester, N.H.
Mr. Cruz, who is considering a presidential bid of his own, tweaked “graybeards” in Washington and people who predicted the fall 2013 battle over the law, spearheaded by Mr. Cruz and other conservatives in Congress, that led to a partial shutdown of the federal government would guarantee Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid would keep his job as majority leader in the U.S. Senate.
“If that had happened, there’d be a lot of voices on TV going, ‘I told you so. We told you so. That numbskull Cruz persisted in fighting against Obamacare and look what happened,’ ” he said. “Well, the old rule: What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
He said in 2014, Republicans won an “epic, historic, tidal wave” election and said Obamacare was the No. 1 issue.
“And it’s interesting — it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone in Washington that energizing and mobilizing millions of people across this country, elevating debate about the disasters — all of the people who’ve lost their jobs, lost their health care, lost their [doctor] because of Obamacare may have played some part in an historic tidal wave that changes control in Washington based on the exact issue that energized and mobilized those millions of people,” he said.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, said Monday that a net 16.4 million people have gained coverage since the law’s major provisions took hold, driving the uninsured rate from 20.3 percent to 13.2 percent between October 2013 and March 4.
But Mr. Cruz said the law was “biggest job killer in the country” and that when you go to “the Upper East side of Manhattan,” Obamacare isn’t a big issue — but it is a big issue “with people who are struggling.”
Speaking in the early presidential state, Mr. Cruz also pitched a broader message of what he called “opportunity conservatism.”
“That means that I believe we should look at every single domestic policy with a laser focus on opportunity,” he said. “How does it help those at the bottom climb the economic ladder?”
He said he’s convinced that the “single biggest lie in all of politics” is that the GOP is the “party of the rich.”
“Here’s the truth of the matter: The rich do just fine with big government,” he said. “Big business does great with big government. Big business inevitably has armies of lobbyists and lawyers and accountants. Big business gets in bed with government.”
“The people who get hammered by big government are the little guys — it’s the small businesses, it’s the mom and pop,” he said. “The top 1 percent — the millionaires and billionaires that the president loves to demagogue — today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our income than any year since 1928.”
He said those on the left, often with good and well-meaning instincts, look at someone on the economic ladder and want to “physically grab them” to move them up — but that doesn’t work, and policy should be focused on empowering people to take ownership of their own future.
He relayed stories from his own parents, such as his father, a Cuban immigrant, working his way from a dishwasher to a cook on up, and said that “every other step on the economic ladder depends on getting on that first rung” and then being able to pull yourself up.
To spur economic growth, Mr. Cruz also called for tax reform, the abolition of the IRS and a “simple flat tax,” praising the efforts on tax reform of former President Ronald Reagan and former Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who represented neighboring Massachusetts in the House.
He also called for regulatory reform, saying smaller community banks and institutions are getting hammered by federal regulations.
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.