The PJ Tatler

Reid's Ultimatum to Boehner: Pass Senate CR or Force Government Shutdown

Chicago Cubs' Daniel Murphy watches in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Majority Leader Harry Reid has issued an ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass a “clean” version of the continuing resolution with no Obamacare defunding rider or the government will partially shut down.

Reid’s warning has more to do with a time factor than anything else. Realistically, if the House passes another continuing resolution with an Obamacare defunding mechanism on Saturday (more likely Sunday), there simply will not be enough time for the Senate to vote on it before the Monday midnight deadline.

It won’t matter anyway because if the House includes the defunding rider — or anything else that the majority leader doesn’t like — Reid says he won’t even take it up.

The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that the Senate is done acting on legislation to avert a government shutdown and that House Republicans have no choice but to pass the Senate’s bill if they want to keep the government open.

“I want everyone to listen and to hear: The United States Senate has acted,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “This is the only legislation that can avert a government shutdown, and that time is ticking as we speak.”

Reid’s made the statement just before closing down the Senate until 2 p.m. Monday.

“In the meantime … if Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] wants to avoid a government shutdown, he will pass our resolution,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s a government shutdown.”

Reid thanked Senate Republicans and Democrats for voting to end debate on the bill today. Twenty-five Republicans joined every Senate Democrat in voting to end debate, even though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warned that vote would let Democrats strip language from the bill to defund ObamaCare.

Reid said House Republicans should think “long and hard” over the weekend about how to proceed and said the American people deserve more than a Congress that lurches from crisis to crisis.

The Cruz Caucus in the House got their marching orders straight from their leader yesterday; blow up the Boehner plan to pass the CR and concentrate firepower on the debt ceiling bill later in October. The Texas Senator told his supporters in the House to vote against the Speaker and send another CR back to the Senate that delays the individual mandate for a year:

On the call, Cruz told them that Boehner was making a mistake, and urged his friends to fight until the end on the CR. The group agreed, and they complained that Boehner’s shift to the debt limit was a diversion. Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined Cruz on the call, and both senators said they’d stand with House conservatives as they opposed the leadership.

By the call’s end, there was a consensus: until the CR talks are complete, Republicans should whip “no” on Boehner’s debt-limit plan, as a way of preventing the leadership from directing the strategy. And that’s exactly what happened late Thursday afternoon: GOP whip Kevin McCarthy worked the floor, but couldn’t find the votes for Boehner’s debt-limit plan. After McCarthy reported back about the Cruz-inspired uprising, the leadership shelved it.

Later Thursday, Cruz met again with House conservatives at a venue near the Capitol. According to one House member, the bicameral bloc talked deep into the night about the CR and pressuring Boehner. At the top of the agenda: making a one-year delay of Obamacare a requirement for government funding, and to accept nothing less, should the defunding effort unravel. They fear Boehner is resistant to making that an ultimatum, and they discussed ways to force his hand.

Leadership sources, for their part, are startled by Cruz’s attempt to shape House strategy and work against the speaker. They knew he’d oppose Boehner’s playbook, but they didn’t expect him to huddle with conservatives and ask them to ignore it. So, Cruz’s meetings have made him a key House player, but they’ve worsened his already-fraught relationship with the leadership.

Does Senator Cruz have more influence in the House than he does the Senate? Apparently so. Two thirds of the GOP caucus in the Senate voted for cloture, ignoring the Texas Senators’ 21- hour marathon talk on Obamacare and decisively repudiating his tactics. Of course, comparing your colleagues to Nazis doesn’t help one’s popularity. But Cruz made it plain in his campaign last year and the first 9 months of his term that he didn’t come to Washington to make friends but rather bust up the place. In this, he is exceeding expectations.

So we will have a partial government shut down and, judging by the attitude of many of the hard liners in the House, we will probably blow through the debt ceiling too. Some may think this irresponsible, imprudent governance. Others see stopping the implementation of Obamacare as of paramount importance, worth shutting down the government and failing to increase the debt limit, with all the unknowns — economic and political — those two events represent.

President Obama still insists he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling, despite crowing yesterday about his willingness to talk to the thugs in Tehran. Negotiating with terrorists while not negotiating with members of the opposition party is the definition of “bad optics.”

How the public perceives that attitude will probably tell the tale of who wins and who loses.