The Corner

What’s the Next Step for Defunders?

Senator Ted Cruz’s 21-hour effort Tuesday and Wednesday drew derision from both inside and outside the halls of the Capitol. But Cruz’s allies tell National Review Online that they hope his “talking filibuster” could end up being a game-changer in the Senate.  

Advocates of the defund effort are pushing for Senate Republicans to vote against cloture on the House-written CR on Friday, in an effort to keep Reid from adding an amendment to strip the bill of the provision that defunds the Affordable Care Act. It would take 41 votes to prevent cloture, and there’s nowhere near that much support for their move right now. That’s where the Cruzibuster or what have you comes in.

“There’s sort of this conventional wisdom that the fight’s over in the Senate, and nothing’s further from the truth,” says Dan Holler of Heritage Action, one of the groups most involved in the efforts to defund the president’s health-care law.

Sources in the push for the defunding of the Affordable Care Act see a path to victory that goes roughly like this: Cruz gives an impressive performance on the Senate floor (check), grassroots activists are galvanized by the event (check), there’s an outpouring of grassroots pressure on Republican senators (to be seen), and as a result, 41 Republicans decide to vote against cloture on the House CR (also to be seen).

That means the next two days are a pretty big deal for defunding advocates.

“We have a lot of work to do in 48 hours,” Holler says, “so the difference between this and August recess was that the senators are up here in Washington and sort of isolated from their constituents. So if constituents are able to get through and deliver the message, then I’m pretty sure we’ll prevail.”

Holler says that he thinks between 15 and 20 senators currently plan to vote against cloture, though most haven’t said so publicly. If about half of the Republican conference publicly opposes the cloture vote, then the remaining undecided senators will feel significant pressure to join Cruz and his cohorts, he says. That’s a lot of ground to cover in not a lot of time, but Holler and others are optimistic.

“It’s amazing how smart people outside Washington are,” he says. “They get the fact that a vote in favor of cloture is a vote to give Harry Reid power; they understand that. Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Lee have built up a ton of trust in the conservative movement, and it’s going to be difficult for senators to say, “I’m not standing with Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and others.”

That remains to be seen. A Senate GOP aide who spoke with National Review Online anonymously says his boss hasn’t yet decided how to vote on cloture despite getting “non-stop phone calls” yesterday. The senator’s office received about a thousand phone calls that day pushing for his boss to vote with Lee and Cruz.

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