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Sen. Ted Cruz says fate of Senate GOP health plan 'precarious'

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Sen. Ted Cruz is expressing doubt about whether the Republican plan to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law will pass the Senate, suggesting Thursday that efforts to cobble together enough votes are on shaky ground.
   
Speaking on San Antonio's KTSA Radio, Cruz called the possible failure of a health care overhaul "catastrophic" saying, "I think we'll look like laughing stocks if we can't get our act together." But he also cautioned: "We're not there yet. We don't have agreement."
   
"It is precarious," Cruz said. "The majority is so narrow, I don't know if we get it done or not."
   
Cruz joined top Senate conservatives in quickly rejecting the original version of the Senate's health care bill, and other Republicans have since followed suit. Instead, Cruz is pushing a conservative alternative aiming to cut costs by giving states greater flexibility to create separate higher-risk pools - an approach that critics say could collapse the health insurance market.
   
Seeking compromise is a dramatic departure for Cruz, who long relished being a conservative insurgent capable of infuriating Senate establishment leaders from both parties. It was only four years ago that Cruz helped spark a conservative revolt that ended with a partial government shutdown.
   
Cruz has shrugged off suggestions that his new role doesn't come naturally. He said Thursday that, since the beginning of the year, "I've been focused on uniting Republicans" by bringing "everyone to the table" and ensuring that conservative and moderate senators can reach a deal and feel satisfied with a revamped Senate proposal.
   
"We've got to get 50 out of 52 Republicans," in the Senate, he said. "We've got to find a way to bring people together."
   
With the Senate on recess, Cruz has spent the week making appearances in his home state. He was repeatedly interrupted by protesters during a July 4 stop in McAllen, on Texas' border with Mexico. A crowd of about 100 at a town hall Wednesday night in suburban Dallas was more sympathetic during an event organized by Concerned Veterans of America, a conservative group funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers.
   
Still, protesters defending the Obama administration's health law gathered outside and waved anti-Cruz signs.
   
"I think we need to talk to our representatives to try to get them to stop this crazy train before it derails," Wendy Quadling, a 43-year-old from Dallas, said Wednesday night. "I believe Cruz should be working to improve the health care we have, not destroy it."
   
Cruz will hold another Concerned Veterans of America town hall in liberal Austin on Thursday evening. The reception should be warm given that access to the event is being tightly controlled - but demonstrators have promised to heckle Cruz from outside the venue.
   
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Associated Press Writer Jamie Dunaway contributed to this report from McKinney, Texas.
 


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