The Senate just advanced the House continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare despite pleas from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) to not let the bill clear cloture.
It passed a resounding 79-19.
Cruz and Lee, who asked for the legislation from the House, feared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) amendment to the bill to strip the Obamacare language, which needs a simple majority and passed after the cloture vote.
The pair hovered near the vote table in the upper chamber for the entire vote, with Cruz frequently checking the list of votes and both trying to whip their colleagues at the last minute.
Those who voted with Cruz and Lee against cloture were Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and David Vitter (R-La.).
Enzi, Inhofe, Paul, Roberts, Rubio, Sessions and Vitter helped out Cruz with his 21-hour marathon speech against Obamacare this week.
Twenty-five Republicans voted for cloture.
The “yes” votes to advance the bill racked up quickly, with the necessary 60-vote threshold reached when there were just 14 “no” votes.
This gave GOPs who hadn’t yet voted cover to cast a “no” vote without risking derailing the bill. It also gave Republicans who voted “aye” reason to say it had passed anyway.
“Today, far too many Republicans joined Harry Reid in giving the Democrats the ability to fund Obamacare,” Cruz said in a statement. “When the bill comes back to the Senate, when the House yet again stands for principle and fights for the American people, I very much hope that Senate Republicans will rise to the challenge. We are stronger when we are united, and we can defeat Obamacare only if Senate Republicans come together, stand with House Republicans, and champion the millions of Americans being harmed by this disastrous healthcare law.”
Cruz has been whipping a group of House conservatives to stand against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and any compromise on Obamacare defunding as the bill goes to conference in the House. Leadership may be leaning toward a deal that would delay the individual mandate for a year as was done for businesses.
Reid, though, vowed to “accept nothing that relates to Obamacare.”
“Given the majority’s unwillingness to even allow us to vote on my bill to do away with the threat of government shutdown, or to vote on amendments to have government live within bipartisan spending limits created just two short years ago, I can’t vote to move this forward,” said Portman in a lengthy statement explaining his vote.
“This most recent threat of shutdown happens at the same time as millions of Americans are forced to deal with the pending implementation of more parts of Obamacare. Unfortunately, the negative effects of Obamacare don’t stop at the hospital door. They aren’t limited to just our pocketbooks. If you ask Americans what’s the most important issue to them, they’ll tell you it’s the lack of good jobs in this country. Obamacare kills jobs.”
The Senate then quickly voted on an amendment from Reid and Sen. Barabara Mikulski (D-Md.) to strip, in Mikulski’s words, the “toxic political item” from the CR (Obamacare defunding), as well removing the debt-limit provision and changing the length of the CR from Dec. 15 to Nov. 15 to urge the passage of an omnibus that removes sequestration.
“I would ask my colleagues, do you really want to be responsible for killing more jobs?… Do you really want to be responsible for making full-time work part-time work?” Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in response. “This is a second chance, and in life you don’t get very many second chances.”
The Reid-Mikulski amendment passed on a party-line 54-44 vote.
The Senate immediately voted on the amended CR, which also passed on a 54-44 party line vote. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) first voted with Democrats before switching to a “no” vote.
“People can disagree about the Affordable Care Act, but it is wrong for right-wing Republicans to ignore the results of the last election and hold the American people hostage by threatening to shut down the government because they can’t get their way,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).