GOP Senators, led by Ted Cruz, are planning on filibustering the continuing resolution that just passed the House on Friday.
There is method to this madness. Harry Reid will have to get a successful cloture vote — 60 votes — to bring the continuing resolution passed by the House to the floor. Once that happens, Reid can use a procedural vote to strip the Obamacare defunding out of the bill, requiring only a simple majority.
Cruz and other Republicans believe the only play they have is to pressure Harry Reid over the government shut down by forcing him to allow a straight up or down vote on the bill, including the defunding measure.
Are there 6 Democratic Senators who would vote to defund? That’s what Cruz and his allies want to find out.
Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday that Republican senators should, in effect, filibuster the House-passed continuing resolution in the Senate.
The Texas Republican is calling on his colleagues to oppose limiting debate on it, warning against what he calls procedural trickery.
“Step two is the Senate, where all accounts suggest Harry Reid plans to use procedural gimmicks to try to add funding back in for Obamacare,” Cruz said. “If Reid pursues this plan — if he insists on using a 50-vote threshold to fund Obamacare with a partisan vote of only Democrats — then I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in.”
“Now is a time for party unity; Senate Republicans should stand side-by-side with courageous House Republicans,” Cruz said.
The statement underscores the unwinnable procedural hand faced by conservative senators, however. They know that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will move to strike out the Obamacare defunding language after getting the 60 votes needed to limit debate, but they can’t stop him without effectively endorsing a government shutdown.
The Nevada Democrat’s move is completely in keeping with long-standing Senate rules. Pending germane amendments and motions, such as a motion to strike, are allowed simple-majority votes after debate’s been limited.
“Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown. I have said it before but it seems to bear repeating: The Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare,” Reid said in a Friday statement.
Cruz’s statement came shortly after the head of the Senate Conservatives Fund said likewise.
“Harry Reid needs 60 votes to approve his plan to fund Obamacare. If 41 Republicans stand strong and oppose cloture, they can defeat Reid’s plan to fund Obamacare. However, if Republicans waffle and vote for cloture, it will grease the skids for Reid’s plan to fund Obamacare. It’s pretty simple — any Republican who votes for cloture is voting to fund Obamacare,” SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins said.
The immediate question is whether Cruz can round up 41 Republican votes to prevent cloture. To do that, he probably needs Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the Senate, to show some leadership and use his influence to gather in most of the caucus.
This may be a harder task than finding 6 Democratic Senators to vote for defunding Obamacare. Some GOP Senators have already expressed a reluctance to shut down the government for any reason and they desire a “clean” funding bill. But with the base on the warpath, the probability that Senators would face a primary opponent if they failed to vote with Cruz may tip the scales in the Texas Senator’s favor.
McConnell himself, already feeling the heat from a challenge on his right, might see no choice but to join with Cruz in trying to prevent the CR from reaching the floor. If that happens, Cruz has a reasonable chance of succeeding.
But what’s the end game? What if Reid refuses to allow a vote on Obamacare defunding? How long are Senate Republicans willing to allow the government to be shut down before it becomes self-defeating?
In this scenario, there is no fall back plan. For Cruz and many on the right, it’s all or nothing with the stakes being funding Obamacare.