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It Appears That Senate Republicans Have Already Lost The Obamacare Chess Match

Chess Board Opening

If you thought things in Washington couldn’t get any more strange, you were wrong. Within hours after the House had passed a Continuing Resolution that defunds the Affordable Care Act, a “grassroots” conservative group said that Senate Republicans must filibuster the bill in order to prevent Obamacare from being funded:

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Today, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) called on Senate Republicans to oppose cloture on Harry Reid’s attempt to fund Obamacare with a simple majority.

SCF Executive Director, Matt Hoskins, made the following statement:

“Americans won a major victory today when the House passed legislation to fund the government without funding Obamacare, but now the debate shifts to the Senate where Harry Reid and the Democrats will try to fund Obamacare. The Democrats have a plan to fund Obamacare, but Republicans can stop it if they stick together.

“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.

“This is a critical test for Senate Republicans and especially for Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader. It’s time for Mitch McConnell to show some leadership and deliver the 41 votes needed to defeat cloture on Harry Reid’s plan to fund Obamacare. Republicans like to say they are against Obamacare, but now is the time to prove it. Now is when it matters.”

According to some reports I’ve seen on Twitter, Ted Cruz is now saying pretty much the same thing.

Now, while your head may well be exploding over the prospect of Republicans filibustering a Republican bill that does what they want, the fact that this is being discussed and is the likely strategy that Senate Republicans like Cruz will pursue is related to the Byron York piece I wrote about this morning. As York noted, under Senate rules Cruz will be unable to launch a real filibuster and, if the bill does get past the final cloture vote then Harry Reid will be able to use a simple majority to strip the defunding language from the bill. At that point, it will be too late for the GOP to do anything about it. So, Republicans would be put in the position of opposing a final up-or-down vote on a piece of legislation sent to them by the Republican House of Representatives or, they vote for cloture and see the bill stripped of the defunding language. Alternatively, of course, Reid could bring the CR up on a Motion To Table, which requires only 51 votes to pass.

All of this indicates one of two things. Either Cruz and the others on the “Defund Obamacare” train had absolutely no plan for victory going into this, or they went into it knowing that they were going to lose all along. Neither one of them is very complimentary toward their governing skills, or their intelligence. More importantly, though, if next week presents us with the spectacle of Senate Republicans filibustering the bill that House Republicans passed just today, then there are going to be a lot of House Republicans who are going to be really annoyed at Ted Cruz. Perhaps he should’ve thought this through a little more, because whether or not he understands the procedural rules of the Senate it’s blindingly clear that Harry Reid and the Democrats do and, right now, they’ve got their opponents in a position where they end up looking ridiculous no matter what they do.

It’s beginning to look like this chess game is over before it even begins.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    This is a chess match in the same way that Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass was a chess match. With striking similarities.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Monty Python’s Black Knight?

    Heck, at this rate the only thing the Democratic Party has to do is get a Southern malt scotch, put its legs up, and enjoy the show.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  3. Todd says:

    I’ll restate my question from the other thread:

    If this bill is obviously not going to pass (and may not even be voted on by) the Senate, and a “clean” CR will probably not pass the House with only Republican votes, how much (if anything) should the Democrats ask in exchange for their votes in the House?

    End the sequester?

    Raise the Debt Ceiling?

    Both? … Neither?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. anjin-san says:

    their governing skills, or their intelligence.

    Cruz is playing a con, plain and simple. I expect the usual marks will pony up with smiles on their faces. Party before country? More like PAC before country AND party.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 1

  5. al-Ameda says:

    This is what Republicans have got:

    “This is a critical test for Senate Republicans and especially for Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader. It’s time for Mitch McConnell to show some leadership and deliver the 41 votes needed to defeat cloture on Harry Reid’s plan to fund Obamacare. Republicans like to say they are against Obamacare, but now is the time to prove it. Now is when it matters.”

    This is going to be fun to watch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  6. Todd says:

    @al-Ameda:

    This is going to be fun to watch.

    If it were happening in a vacuum maybe. In the real world, I’m just not sure there are many ways this doesn’t get pretty ugly for everybody (especially those of us who get paid by the govt.) before it eventually plays itself out.

    So while I understand where you’re coming from, I’m still not sure “fun” is exactly the word I’d use.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Cruz just wants to cement his position with the Tea Party and shove aside young Rand Paul. This has nothing to do with governing or with Obamacare or with the Senate or the House or anything besides Ted Cruz’s ambition to be president and his fear of Paul.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 3

  8. gVOR08 says:

    You discount the possibility that Boehner, Cruz, McConnell, et al are political masterminds playing a deep game and will defeat Obama at 11 dimensional chess.

    I just crack myself up sometimes.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 0

  9. James Pearce says:

    It’s time for Mitch McConnell to show some leadership and deliver the 41 votes needed to defeat cloture

    “And if you don’t, we’ll primary your butt so fast……”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  10. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “we’ll primary your butt so fast”

    That’s already happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  11. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath:

    That’s already happened.

    Yes, which is why it’s hilarious we’re hearing this “It’s up to Mitch” stuff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. john personna says:

    A better title would be “Republican Party loses Checkers Match, with Itself.”

    Other than that, Cruz really is signalling the disdain he feels for his own base. He has to believe they can’t follow, to believe he has gained.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  13. Woody says:

    Congressional Republicans are there solely to provide content for the conservative media, as in a “reality” show.

    It might be amusing, except that these pseudo-Snookis are adversely affecting millions of actual real-life Americans.

    Meanwhile, “Chuck” Todd and the rest of the Beltway Insiders vie for the role of Ryan Seacrest.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  14. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Either Cruz and the others on the “Defund Obamacare” train had absolutely no plan for victory going into this, or they went into it knowing that they were going to lose all along.

    Well, there is a third option. They may actually be totally clueless about the rules of the Senate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Todd:

    If it were happening in a vacuum maybe.

    While I feel for those who are going to be affected by this (especially those like you), I know the screwing is coming. The GOP has been giving me the shaft ever since I started working in ’74. But I’m ready this time. I’ve got a bottle of single malt in one hand, a case of home brew right next to the other, a weeks worth of Imo’s pizza and a full deep freeze.

    Oh yeah, one more thing: A nice big jar of Vaseline. Might as well sit back and enjoy the show. This time I’m ready.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  16. wr says:

    But…but…but… There was a huge bipartisan vote in the House to defund Obamacare. Ted Cruz said so!

    Of course in reality that means there were two Democrats who voted with the majority (and one Republican who voted against). But in nutso world, that’s a huge bipartisan vote.

    In fact, I’m sure Jenos or JKB will be here crowing about the bipartisan revolt against the oppressor in five…four…three…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  17. Hal 10000 says:

    This doesn’t surprise me. Yesterday, Cruz said something to the effect that he wants to create a new model were legislation is guided by outside pressure instead of deals (i.e., gullible people he raised money from). But there are MANY outside pressures, some of which want different things. Deals are how you reconcile those competing interests.

    I’ve been reserving judgement on Cruz for a while. The vitriol of the attacks on him bothered me. I’m not prepared to go full wonk yet, but this debacle is not reflecting well on him. He’s looking more and more like someone who’d rather host a talk show than govern.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Jen says:

    @john personna: I am pretty sure this crew could lose a match of tic-tac-toe with itself.

    I am so beyond tired of the way Republicans are behaving in all of this. They are not fit to govern, and the handful who might be have been tamped down by leadership. Where are the grownups?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  19. JohnMcC says:

    I endorse our friend Todd’s concern that this will have sweeping negative effects for many, many people and is not something to rejoice over. There are quite a few of the ‘masterminds’ behind this who could potentially pay a cost for what they are doiing. There are others who will prosper more as the effects grow worse; will former-Senator DeMint pay a price?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @Hal 10000: *ahem*: please give me the name of ANY Republican congresscritter that wouldn’t prefer to be a talk show host than govern….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. Ernieyeball says:

    @Hal 10000: But there are MANY outside pressures, some of which want different things. Deals are how you reconcile those competing interests.

    pol-i-tics 1st definition, New Oxford American Dictionary.
    “…the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, esp. the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power…”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. JWH says:

    Ordinarily, I would be OK with this kind of kabuki. Republicans want to defund/stop Obamacare. I get it. I would be completely happy with giving them a chance to make speeches, vote against it, and put on their little song and dance, then pass a proper bill later. The problem is that the Kwazy Kaucus isn’t satisfied with tilting at the windmill only once. They insist on charging it again … and again … and again … and again … and again …

    Bloody hell, even Sancho Panza got tired of that crap after a while.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. steve s says:

    What are the odds that enough republicans fear the tea party that the government shuts down And they don’t raise the debt ceiling?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. thomm says:

    @jwh

    Sancho may have gotten tired of the windmill tilting, but it took the locals whipping the ever-living monkey sh_t out of Don Quixote to make him stop.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. rudderpedals says:

    Ground control to Major Ty

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0