"On Jan. 1, the exchanges kick in and the subsidies kick in," said the Texas Republican in a speech Saturday at the Western Conservative Summit. "Once those kick in, it's going to prove almost impossible to undo Obamacare. The administration's plan is very simple: Get everyone addicted to the sugar so that Obamacare remains a permanent feature of our society."
He asked foes of the Affordable Care Act to sign a national petition launched Saturday that calls for Congress to approve the Sept. 30 continuing budget resolution only if it eliminates funding for Obamacare.
The online petition, called Don't Fund It, is located at www.dontfundobamacare.com
Opposing Mr. Cruz's defunding plan was Republican strategist Dick Morris, who urged Republicans to "let the consequences of Obama's policies happen."
"I believe it would be a serious mistake for us to insert ourselves in between Obamacare and the federal government by defunding it and shutting the government down," said Mr. Morris. "Because if we did, that would become the story . . . But if we don't get in the way, if we let the president screw this up on his own, people are going to understand all over the country how flawed and terrible this program is."
If that happens, "the mandate for its repeal will resonate with heavy Republican victories in 2014, and then we really will be able to repeal it," Mr. Morris said.
A first-term senator and favorite of conservatives and patriot groups, Mr. Cruz said many Republicans are "terrified" at the prospect of being criticized in the media for holding up the budget resolution and threatening a federal shutdown.
"Right now we don't have the votes. Right now we're not even close," said Mr. Cruz. "There's only one way we're going to get 41 Republicans in the Senate and 218 Republicans in the House of Representatives, which is if they hear from the American people in overwhelming numbers."
Mr. Cruz's remarks were greeted with several standing ovations by the estimated 2,000 attendees at the Denver Hyatt Regency and those watching the summit by remote feed in Arizona.
Conservative speakers took frequent aim at the Affordable Care Act during the first two days of the three-day summit, which ends Sunday.
"When Obamacare is enacted, 8 million people who are currently insured will lose their health insurance, and 30 million people still will not have health insurance," said Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin. "Instead of addressing our most pressing problems, many of our so-called elected reps are moving full speed ahead in ways that will contribute to bigger problems and will lead to the full implementation of Obamacare."