AUSTIN - On Thursday night, Senator Ted Cruz continued his statewide tour of "Defend and Reform" sessions, making stops in San Antonio and Austin.
About 100 protestors gathered outside of his Austin appearance, chanting and waving signs to voice their displeasure with the GOP healthcare proposal.
"This is not an issue of people who don't want to work and don't want to contribute. I am contributing. But the only reason I am contributing is because I have these services," said Amy Litzinger, who uses a wheelchair.
Litzinger teaches legislative advocacy and "danceability," which is mixed ability dance.
The protestors were kicked off Renaissance property, and crowded along the sidewalk across the street. They also faced some drawback from passersby.
Inside, Cruz spoke to a packed ballroom inside the Renaissance Austin Hotel and was greeted with a standing ovation upon his entrance.
During the event, Cruz focused much of his attention on the VA and healthcare access for veterans. The speaking tour was held by Concerned Veterans for America, a Virginia-based advocacy group.
Speaking on reform in the VA, Cruz called for greater accountability and flexibility for veterans.
"I'm a big believer that choice and competition are powerful - the best way to change a government monopoly, to improve a government monopoly, is to introduce competition," said Cruz, using the issue of wait times as an example of what he believed could be improved.
After answering a few questions from a moderator with Concerned Veterans for America, Cruz took audience questions, as many wanted to learn about his goals for the new healthcare plan. Currently, Cruz is one of nine Republican senators opposing the legislation. Despite the current impasse, Cruz expressed a positive outlook that a deal could get done.
"I still believe we can get it done. I've spent the last six months working hard to bring Republicans together, to bring Conservatives and moderates and leadership and the administration all together, and get this done. I believe we can get to Yes. I don't know if we will," Cruz explained.
Inside, a small group of protestors interrupted Cruz, drawing the ire of many in the crowd. Despite a warning concerning interruptions at the beginning of the event, Cruz responded to the group, engaging them in a 10-minute back-and-forth conversation.
Following the event, at least one audience member approached the protestors, chastising them for taking away the attention from the stated purpose of the night.
During his speech, Cruz credited the GOP pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as being responsible for the Republican-controlled White House, House, and Senate.
"There are significant concerns if we fail to repeal Obamacare. After seven years of promising voters over and over again we're going to repeal Obamacare, I think the consequences could be catastrophic of failing to do it. And I think there's an even worse outcome than failing to do it, which is passing a bill which is entitled Obamacare Repeal, that has that on the title, but doesn't actually fix the problem." Cruz said.
The Senator continues his speaking tour in Houston.
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