Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., called the combination of defunding "Obamacare" and the spending bill a "political ploy."
Still, Cruz and Lee press ahead, with a showdown in the Senate this coming week. Conservatives and tea partyers are ecstatic.
JoAnn Fleming, an activist in the Kingwood Tea Party in East Texas, praised Cruz for his singular quest. She commended him for cutting through the noise, which she defined as "those people in the Republican Party who always have an excuse for not doing the right thing."
"They think a freshman is just supposed to come to Washington and sit down and shut up, and Ted Cruz is not at all like that," said Fleming, who also heads the citizen's advisory committee to the Tea Party Caucus in the Texas Legislature. "We didn't elect him to go to Washington to just sit down and fall in line with the rest of them. And so he's done exactly what we sent him to Washington to do."
Fleming said people lined up three hours to four hours in advance for one of Cruz' "defund" tour stops this summer in Texas. An activist for 21 years, Fleming said she never saw anything like it.
The 42-year-old Cruz stunned the Republican establishment in 2012, capturing the GOP nomination from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who had the money and the backing of Gov. Rick Perry.
Cruz, a Cuban-American with an Ivy League resume, time as Texas solicitor general and a Supreme Court clerkship with the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, created headlines in his first few months in the Senate with a fierce challenge to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's nomination.
Cruz promised this past week to do "everything and anything possible to defund Obamacare," including a possible filibuster, describing the law as a job killer.
Lee said that although the conventional wisdom is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has the votes to stop their effort, "in the meantime, those of us who feel strongly that Obamacare needs to be defunded will continue with our message."
In several fundraising appeals, Lee has warned that Obama, Democrats, the media and "even some from own party" are lying about his efforts to defund "Obamacare," saying he's trying to shut down the government. Not so, says Lee, who argues that he's trying to keep the government operating and end the health care law.
"The point is Obamacare ought to be able to stand on its own merits," Lee said. "The law is increasingly unpopular with the American people, causing increasing amount of uncertainty among Americans. Most Americans currently believe that Obamacare's impact will make their family health care situation worse, not better."
The health care law and the tea party's furious response helped propel Lee to Washington in 2010. The 42-year-old Lee, the son of President Ronald Reagan's solicitor general, Rex Lee, and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, snatched the Senate seat from Republican Sen. Robert Bennett.
He challenged Bennett over the incumbent's backing for the 2008 financial bailout. Lee has remained steadfast in sticking to his conservative approach without compromise.
"I will not vote for spending legislation that votes for Obamacare," Lee said.
Cruz and Lee continue to appear in the Senate Conservatives Fund ads, and the organization reported raising $1.8 million so far this year, according to the Federal Election Commission. The ads are running nationwide — in Republican and Democratic leaning states.
Follow Donna Cassata on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DonnaCassataAP
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Original headline: Cruz, Lee plan on 'Obamacare' unnerves some in GOP
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