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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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July 29th, 2013
05:52 PM ET

Sen. Cruz to Gov. Christie: Privacy isn't 'esoteric'

There is a power struggle going on about the direction of the Republican party, over everything from foreign policy, to the role of national security, to defunding Obamacare – and Texas freshman Sen. Ted Cruz is right in the thick of it.

Asked about the influence of libertarian-minded leaders in the GOP, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at a Republican governors forum Thursday that when it comes to national security, those who oppose National Security Agency programs that monitor Americans' electronic activity were just wrong.

"These esoteric, intellectual debates – I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation," Christie said. "And they won't. That's a lot tougher conversation to have."

"It seems to me that the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution, the protections of the civil liberties of Americans, they aren't esoteric. They're the foundation of this country," Cruz said in response.

"One of the things that's been so dismaying about the Obama administration is we have seen a consistent onslaught on our constitutional rights," said Cruz, who insisted that the Obama administration is worse than former President George W. Bush's when it comes to constitutional violations.

The Bush administration authorized a program that allowed warrantless wiretaps on U.S. citizens.

But Cruz's main focus at the moment is trying to defund Obamacare.

"The top priority of every elected official, Republican or Democrat, should be restoring economic growth and nothing is hurting economic growth more than Obamacare," said Cruz.

Cruz has offered a so-called continuing resolution bill that includes an amendment stripping funding from the Affordable Care Act. The Texas senator is pushing a strategy where there will be a showdown, and it could come down to shutting down the government if the Democrats, the Senate, and the president do not agree to defund Obamacare.

Several of Cruz's Republican colleagues have criticized the strategy. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, called it "a suicidal political tactic," and the "political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum." Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said it was "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." And Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, said "it will not work ... It's not an achievable strategy. It's creating the false impression that you can do something when you can't. And it's dishonest."

Cruz called his critics "career politicians" who focus on "maintaining power, rather than standing for principle."

"We have a fight we can win.  If Obamacare isn't working, this is our single best opportunity to defund it in the next 60 days," said Cruz.

The president would likely veto the legislation if it passed Congress.

For more  of our interview with Cruz, check out the video above.

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