Open thread: Senate to hold cloture vote at 12:30 ET on House bill defunding ObamaCare; Update: Cloture passes overwhelmingly; Update: Re-funding passes, with all Dems voting yes

There’ll be four votes today, the first of which is the big filibuster opportunity for Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, but don’t change the channel from C-SPAN 2 once that’s finished. The consolation prize for Republicans after a week of dispiriting internal squabbling is watching Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, and the other Democratic incumbents from red states who are up for reelection next year have to bite the bullet on Reid’s amendment to re-fund ObamaCare. That vote, as well as a vote on final passage of the Senate CR, will follow the cloture vote, and all Reid needs is 51. He can afford to let three, and only three, Democrats vote no along with the Republicans, but that means someone’s going to be the odd man out. Pryor, Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, even Joe Manchin — who’s going to have to take one for the team in the White House and then try to explain to conservative voters in their home states why they did so?


Reid will get his 51, but how many Republicans will Cruz and Lee get for their filibuster? Maybe more than you think, says Mike Flynn:

According to Hill sources, over 20 GOP Senators are set to buck Leadership on Friday and reject this procedural game, by voting against cloture. By some accounts, up to 30 Senators could vote against GOP Leadership, which would represent an existential crisis within the caucus. McConnell and Cornyn have publicly put their reputations on the line. If more than half the caucus votes against them, the center of power within the Senate Republicans will have shifted.

There are many, including this author, who questioned the strategy of Cruz and Lee. There are others in the GOP establishment who openly mocked them and joined in a media assault against them. It was certainly true that they had almost no chance to prevail. But, something unusual happened. What Cruz and Lee were able to do was focus the country’s attention on ObamaCare for the past several weeks and, with Ted Cruz’s pseudo-filibuster, provide a klieg light on the failings of ObamaCare, just as the public was starting to pay attention. They galvanized the grass-roots in a way that hasn’t been seen for three years. Losing this battle, they set the stage for future victories.

Jeff Sessions announced a few days ago that he’d changed his mind and would vote with Cruz and Lee today. Tim Scott told Fox News last night that he would too. At this point, given the swell of grassroots support for defunding, a Senate Republican who knows that his/her vote won’t affect the outcome has every reason to stay on the tea party’s good side by voting with Cruz. There are already a handful of GOPers who have committed publicly to voting with Reid for cloture — McConnell, Cornyn, Corker, Coburn, McCain, and Graham. That’s six; that’s all Reid needs to get to 60, assuming his caucus remains unanimously in favor. (Which it likely will. Mark Pryor can vote for cloture on the House bill by claiming, if need be, that he liked the bill because it … defunds ObamaCare! Although, obviously, to pull that off he’ll have to vote no on Reid’s bill later as well.) All of that being so, any Senate Republican who’s worried about Cruz’s filibuster because it might cause a shutdown can rest easy that Reid has the votes to defeat it — which in turn means he/she is free to vote with Cruz to impress conservatives. The only reason Cruz might not get 40 votes on his side, I think, is that some Republicans won’t want to leave McConnell and Cornyn, the leaders of the caucus, out on a limb politically. If nearly every Republican votes no on cloture and the two guys at the top — both of whom are up for reelection! — vote yes, that puts the leadership in … an uncomfortable spot. Some McConnell loyalists in the Senate might choose to jump off the cliff with him on this one, just so that Cruz can’t say later that Mitch the Knife was in a tiny minority on his own side.


Anyway, prediction time in the comments. I’m going to guess, for no particular reason at all, that the Cruz/Lee wing ends up with 28 votes. If you’re looking for something to read while you wait, enjoy the hottest new meme in political media — mainstream reporters rooting for a shutdown, just because the only way out of perpetual fiscal brinksmanship is for one or both of these parties to get a hard lesson on what can happen when their bluff is called.

Update: The vote’s not over as I write this but the tally already stands at 60/15. I bet there’ll be a flood of no’s at the end as Republicans who were waiting to make sure Reid secured cloture and beat the filibuster now decide to throw their meaningless votes Cruz’s way.

Update: Final tally: 79-19. I’m honestly surprised. Back with analysis once we have the roll.

Update: The 19 no’s:

If you’re wondering what Portman and Moran are doing there:

Enzi, of course, is there because he’s trying to repel Liz Cheney’s bid to be the tea-party alternative in next year’s Wyoming primary. Most of the others are solid red-staters, tea-party favorites, and/or aspiring Republican presidential nominees, although Heller, Toomey, and Grassley are interesting purple-state additions. Toomey needs conservative cred for the primary after his background-checks push, I guess, and Grassley has to deal with a famously conservative primary electorate in Iowa, but Heller’s been tacking towards the center ever since being elected in Nevada. Maybe he figured he needed to throw Republicans there a bone.


Update: All Democrats voted yes. Unofficially, here are the Republicans who joined them:

Some of those are obvious — Collins and Ayotte, for instance, arguably have as much to fear in the general election from centrists as they do in the primary from righties in their home states — but some are unexpected. Ron Johnson, for instance, has sounded skeptical of Cruz’s tactics all week but he’s usually a reliable tea-party vote. He too has to deal with a purple-state electorate, though. Maybe the local politics of this, or Cruz’s status as new left-wing lightning rod, made it too risky for him.

Update: Cruz’s Plan B, per NRO: Get House conservatives to stop Boehner from making a deal on the CR.

Boehner’s plan — to focus on a debt-limit package, rather than a drawn-out CR battle — made many conservatives uneasy. As they mulled a response, they reached out to Cruz.

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.


They want a one-year delay of ObamaCare to be the price of funding the government, not of raising the debt ceiling next month.

Update: Another surprise: Every last Democrat voted yes on Reid’s amendment to strip out the House’s defunding language. The final tally was 54/44. Verrrry risky of Pryor, Hagan, etc, to put their names to this. Maybe they decided that, since Reid needed at least some of their votes, it’d be unfair if they didn’t all take the plunge together.

Update: Same margin on the final CR, 54/44 on a straight party line. Now back to Boehner and the House.

Update: Whoops, typo in the headline. It’s re-funding that passed, not defunding, as I had it earlier. Sorry about that.

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David Strom 8:30 PM | February 22, 2024