Peter King: If Ted Cruz can't deliver on this defunding thing, he should keep quiet from now on

Via Mediaite, this guy’s going to be a barrel of laughs at the debates in 2016, huh? The CNN clip below was recorded yesterday afternoon but he was still throwing jabs this morning:

Sean Duffy, who appeared with King on Blitzer’s show, was also still punching today: “What I see happening now is people coming out and calling them out for the hypocrisy of these big, tough conservatives who know how to fight, but never get in the ring.” That’s true, people in the House and Senate are calling out Cruz and Lee, but Duffy and King are unusual thus far in being willing to go on record about it. (Michael Grimm, who’s also a New York Republican, is another.) Are the anonymous aides whispering to reporters about Cruz technically “in the ring”?

Anyway, the House will pass a defunding measure sometime today, the bill will head to the Senate, and then Cruz, Lee, and Rand Paul can launch a talking filibuster of the sort I described yesterday, right? Well … no, says Byron York:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will propose a motion to strike the defunding provision from the continuing resolution. Senate rules allow that to be decided on a simple majority vote. Democrats will vote to strike the defunding portion and set up a final up-or-down vote on the continuing resolution, which at that point will be just a measure to fund the government, including Obamacare. There will be a simple majority vote. The measure will pass.

But couldn’t Cruz and his allies stand up and stage a talking filibuster, at least to put the process on hold? In fact, Senate rules, which Reid will enforce, will limit the debate on the measure to 30 hours, divided evenly between the parties. That gives Republicans 15 hours, to be divided between 46 GOP senators. That’s not a lot of time. It’s possible the Republican caucus could decide to allow Cruz to filibuster for an extended period of time. But it’s unlikely, given the other senators who will likely want to speak out on the issue. In March, the Rand Paul filibuster went on for nearly 13 hours; don’t look for something like that to happen this time.

There won’t be an opportunity to filibuster Reid’s CR by denying Democrats 60 votes on cloture and there won’t be an opportunity for a 12-hour Cruzapalooza on the evils of ObamaCare. Maybe some of his colleagues in the “defund” faction will cede him some of their time so that he’ll have a longer stretch on the floor, but that seems unlikely. The great political benefit for people like Paul and Rubio who’ve joined the “defund” push is winning respect among grassroots conservatives for doing so. Why would they hand Cruz, a potential 2016 rival, some of their own allotted spotlight time to take credit?

The only hope Senate Republicans have of throwing a wrench in the works in their chamber is getting some red-state Dems to join them in voting no, which almost certainly won’t happen. It’d be considered high treason by the White House and the Democratic base. So Reid’s clean CR will pass and then it’ll be sent to the House. What happens then? National Journal says Boehner’s team has already hatched a plan:

But, sources familiar with the planning say Boehner is preparing a third option, one that keeps the government open at post-sequester spending levels while not conceding defeat on Obamacare. To accomplish this, the Republican leadership is planning to propose a debt-ceiling package — perhaps as early as next week — that has as its centerpiece a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law.

Meanwhile, House leadership would supplement the revised CR with some assortment of conservative policy provisions (such as a “conscience clause” for health care coverage, or a verification system for insurance subsidies.) Adding such items, the thinking goes, would secure sufficient support from skeptical House Republicans while not antagonizing enough Democrats to derail passage in the Senate.

Top Republicans say shifting their anti-Obamacare efforts from the CR to the debt-ceiling is smart strategy and sound politics. For one thing, conservatives now realize that delaying Obamacare — as opposed to repealing or defunding it — represents their best shot at scoring a health care victory. Also, Boehner can honestly tell his members that he did everything he could to defund Obamacare in the CR. And, at the end of the day, Republicans still believe their leverage will be maximized when negotiating the nation’s borrowing limit.

The House leadership has always preferred delay to defund and they’ve always favored having this fight in the context of the debt ceiling, where Democrats won’t be quite as eager to see Republicans choose the nuclear option. More leverage for the GOP to extract concessions, plus more of a likelihood of attracting some Democratic votes given that the White House has already blessed delay as helpful vis-a-vis the employer mandate. Assuming National Journal is right, this would be Boehner’s second punt on this subject to Cruz and Lee. Having failed to stop Reid from killing the “defund” push in the Senate, will they then accept the House plan to fight for a one-year delay during the debt ceiling? Or will that amount to “surrender”?

Update: Just as I published this, the House voted to defund O-Care. 230-189, with two Democrats crossing the aisle. On to the Senate.

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