Washington (CNN) - It's a typical love story. Man loves his party. Party follows man. Man makes misstep. Man tries to make up for his indiscretion.
In this case, the man is freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a crusader of the defund-Obamacare movement. His misstep put at risk the political future of many in his party. After House Republicans jumped on his bandwagon to risk government shutdown in exchange for defunding the health care law, he indicated on Wednesday that their risky transaction might be useless.
"(Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so," Cruz said in the statement.
That peeved Republicans in the House, especially those who are reluctantly moving forward with the maneuver.
"They said nothing is impossible if you fight hard enough, and the minute the House announces the vote, they give up the fight? It's crazy," one senior GOP leadership aide told CNN.
Arkansas Republican Rep. Tim Griffin took to Twitter to tweak Cruz, Rubio and Lee, referring to a message from a reporter about the their original statement and tweeting "so far Sen Rs are good at getting Facebook likes, and townhalls, not much else. Do something. . . RT ..."
Now he's trying to make amends. He said he wants "to commend" members of the House and Republican leadership "for sticking their neck out" on the issue.
Cruz's Texas GOP colleague Rep. Blake Farenthold praised Cruz as one of the most articulate legislators on the Hill and issued a challenge: "I think this a great opportunity for him to go to the Senate floor and win over some votes. Let's see him do the Rand Paul filibuster. He can do it, and I think he'll do a good job," Farenthold said.
Cruz promised to do "everything necessary and everything possible to defund Obamacare."
Republican leadership, meanwhile, is attempting to disguise the fissure that has once again emerged between the more mainstream members and the more conservative.
"The Republicans, by their very nature, are a bit more independent than our colleagues across the aisle. I've seen that from the day I got here," House Speaker John Boehner said.
Boehner is reluctantly moving forward with the plan to tie health care funding with government funding. He – and other Republicans – have said in the past that it's a losing battle. But by deciding to hold a vote on the measure Friday, the conservative faction of his party has been effective.
"[T]he debate in the House has been settled," Boehner said. Obamacare "is a train wreck and it's going to raise costs, it's destroying American jobs and it must go," Boehner said, dismissing any disagreement within the ranks.
Democrats exploit Republican fissures
While the Republican Party is split on how to move forward on the health care bill they find loathsome, Democrats are exploiting the discord.
"I never thought I would ever come to the floor of the United States Senate to quote Karl Rove," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said. He quoted an op-ed Rove wrote for Thursday's Wall Street Journal.
"Independent voters, those who don't declare for either political party across America, think that the Tea Party strategy is disastrous," Durbin said citing Rove. "And he warned the Republican Party that if you are not careful you are going to push those independents over on to the democratic side."
Reid also seized the opportunity. "It would be good political theater to watch them self-destruct, and that is what they are doing, if there were not so much at stake," he said on the Senate floor.
"The economic consequences of a government shutdown are deadly serious."
Cruz, meanwhile, attempted to spin his statement from yesterday into a more direct, partisan challenge. He placed the onus on Reid. "The ball now moves to the Senate and Harry Reid," he said.
He also put pressure on his Republican Senate colleagues who think his idea is a bad one.
He called on "every Senate Republican to stand shoulder to shoulder" with the defund-Obamacare supporters.
- CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Bryan Koenig.