No one’s making any promises but this is inevitable, right?
Of course Reid, with 54 Democrats in the Senate, does indeed have the votes to defeat the defunding measure. That’s been known all along. So what do House Republicans want Cruz to do? For starters, they’d like to see Cruz, along with Paul, Rubio, and Lee, launch another stand-on-the-Senate-floor filibuster. The hope is that it might inspire Republicans the same way the March filibuster did, and perhaps start a wave of public opinion in support of defunding. Not reading anyone’s mind, but my guess is most House GOP lawmakers who will vote for defunding don’t really believe that will happen. But they want to see Cruz and his Senate colleagues make a big gesture, even in defeat, to back up their words.
Early Thursday afternoon, Cruz appeared at a news conference with some House and Senate Republicans and was asked if he would be willing to launch a filibuster to defund Obamacare. “I will do everything necessary and anything possible,” Cruz said. Asked specifically if that included a filibuster, Cruz said yes.
They’re not remotely close to having the 41 votes they’d need for a familiar kill-it-on-cloture filibuster, says Byron York, so that must mean Cruz is thinking of a Rand Paul “talk ’til you almost pee yourself” floor performance. Which makes all the sense in the world: Cruz is probably the best orator in the Senate and he’s maintained since the start of this process that the only shot the defunders have is to galvanize public opinion against ObamaCare. A talking filibuster is the perfect forum for him to do it. Even if he can’t move general public opinion any further against the law, he can electrify grassroots righties to the point where conservatives in the House who might be wavering about a shutdown decide to stand firm on defunding, at least for awhile.
Are we sure Cruz and Lee can’t get to 41 votes, though, at least at first? That goes back to my post yesterday. There are many Senate Republicans who think a shutdown is nuts, but we’re not at the shutdown stage yet. We’re at the “stand with Ted and Mike against ObamaCare” stage. Someone like Tom Coburn could vote with them to filibuster a clean CR introduced by Reid that funds O-Care and then wait to see if Boehner and the House will bail him out by dropping their defund demand and passing a clean CR of their own. The tough spot for Coburnites will come if House conservatives stand firm and then Reid re-introduces a clean CR in the Senate right before the shutdown is set to take effect. Voting with Reid in that case won’t avert the shutdown — the House will still need to pass something — but it might at least weaken the Democrats’ talking point that the GOP wants a shutdown. “Not us,” the Coburnites would say. Grassroots righties would hate them for that since it would only increase the pressure on the House to cave, but any Senate Republican willing to dismiss a shutdown as nutty probably isn’t worried about grassroots opinion anyway. Or, rather, is worried less about it than about wider public perceptions of the party.
Via the Corner, here’s Boehner handing off to Cruz and company. Around the same time he was saying this, Harry Reid was vowing that any defunding measure is “dead, dead” in the Senate. Exit quotation via Ramesh Ponnuru:
Defunders today are urging unity on the folks they've spent months calling the surrender caucus.
— Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) September 19, 2013