Cruz, Lee Continue to Pressure GOP

by Andrew Stiles

Senators Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) continue to urge their colleagues to oppose an upcoming cloture vote on the House-passed continuing resolution, which includes a provision to strip funding for Obamacare. If the vote succeeds, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would be able to offer an amendment to remove the defunding provision, and pass it with a simple majority of 51 votes.

In order to do so, Reid would have to forgo an open-amendment process that would allow Republicans to offer amendments and set a 60-vote threshold for passage. For Reid, This is par for the course, and something Republicans have repeatedly complained about and fought against as a violation of the minority party’s rights. Cruz and Lee are urging colleagues to fight for these same rights when it comes to the continuing resolution. Blocking cloture, notes one aide close to the effort, is “one of the major tools we have to prevent getting rolled by the majority.”

“We’re willing to stand up for amendments on smaller bills, so why aren’t we willing to stand up and defend our procedural rights against Obamacare?” the aide tells National Review Online. “We would love to have an open amendment process.”

However, Reid is unlikely to permit one, for several reasons. Not only would the provision to restore Obamacare funding fail to get 60 votes, but it is also likely that a number of Republican measures would have sufficient bipartisan support to pass, such as Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R., Utah) bill to repeal Obamacare’s tax on medical devices — which even Reid concedes is a “stupid tax” – as well as Senator David Vitter’s (R., La.) proposal to end a special health-care subsidy for members of Congress and their staff. 

The aide acknowledges that Reid probably has a sufficient amount of Republican votes (six) to support cloture. Accordingly, the message from defunders to their GOP colleagues is: ”Why on earth would you want to be number seven?” Given the considerable amount of grassroots momentum behind the defunding efforts, Republicans may wish to avoid ”explaining why you held hands with Harry Reid to gut the House bill that unified Republicans.” 

Anxiety appears to be running high within the Senate Republican conference, as evidenced by the normally soft-spoken Senator John Boozman’s (R., Ark.) eruption at Lee and Cruz during a closed-door meeting earlier this week, complaining about the deluge of phone calls to his office urging him to support their defunding strategy. 

At the very least, defunders believe that Senate Republicans owe it to their House colleagues, who recently united behind a resolution to defund Obamacare, to “stand and fight” against the Senate Majority Leader. “We need to send a signal on this vote to the House that we are unified, that we will protect them and do the right thing not leave them high and dry,” the aide says, noting that Cruz and Lee have been reaching out to House Republicans to coordinate strategy. 

Even if the defunding effort ultimately fails, as is likely, the end result could be something most Republicans can be happy about. “A lot of people would say that’s where they expected this debate to go,” the aide says. “Stand united behind defunding and then negotiate back to center and get something else on Obamacare.”

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