This week will be crucial for Ted Cruz’ future, according to Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post, with the fate of ObamaCare, the debt ceiling, and continued funding for the government at stake. It doesn’t depend on victory so much as it does to his impact on opposition to ObamaCare, the two write:
To be clear: A Cruz bounce back should not be judged solely on whether he can round up the 40 additional votes necessary to keep a bill that keeps the government funded but strips the Obamacare defunding off the floor of the Senate. Unless there is a major shift among Republicans in the Senate, Cruz won’t be able to find those 40 votes.
Instead, they key to measuring Cruz’s success will be what approach he takes to making his opposition to Obamacare known and what (if any) impact it has. Does Cruz launch a traditional talking filibuster, a doomed but principled effort to show how strongly he opposes the measure? If he doesn’t, is he able to convince/cajole a handful of wavering Republican senators to vote against cloture? Can Cruz make enough of a stand in the Senate to stiffen the spines of House Republicans — assuming the legislation, sans defunding Obamacare, is headed their way some time in the next week?
Cruz seems little interested in making nice with his colleagues — Democrats or Republicans. And, that’s fine — heck, it probably works in his favor politically at a time when people loathe political Washington and its inhabitants. But, what Cruz must prove this week is that he’s more than just talk; that when he has the chance to act on principle, he does everything he can to do exactly that. (Think Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster on drones.)
In short: It’s put up or shut up time for Ted Cruz this week.
He’s going into the week with considerable headwinds on this effort, at least according to a new poll out by CNBC. Respondents lean against defunding ObamaCare at all — and a wide majority opposes a government shutdown to force it, 59% to just 19% supporting it:
The CNBC All-America Economic Survey of 800 people across the country conducted by Hart-McInturff, finds that, in general, Americans oppose defunding Obamacare by a plurality of 44 percent to 38 percent.
Opposition to defunding increases sharply when the issue of shutting down the government and defaulting is included. In that case, Americans oppose defunding 59 percent to 19 percent, with 18 percent of respondents unsure. The final 4 percent is a group of people who want to defund Obamacare, but become unsure when asked if they still hold that view if it means shutting down the government. …
In general, men are roughly split on the issue, with 43 percent supporting defunding, 42 percent opposing and 15 percent unsure. But when the issue of a government shutdown and default is included their support declines: 56 percent oppose defunding and only 14 percent solidly favor the measure.
Women are more firmly opposed to defunding the new health care law under any circumstances, with 47 percent opposed, 33 percent in favor and 20 percent unsure.
Even while a majority of Republicans support defunding (51/36), a near-majority oppose a government shutdown over the issue (36/48 for shutdown). Independents break even more harshly against both, narrowly opposing defunding (40/44) but coming out almost 5:1 against a government shutdown, 14/65. In fact, the only demographic that favors this strategy, according to CNBC, is the Tea Party demo, which supports a shutdown strategy with a 54% majority.
This differs sharply from a Rasmussen poll last week on the same subject. That survey found 51% supporting a government shutdown until Democrats and Republicans could decide what to cut from the “health care law at existing levels of spending,” but that’s a little different than what’s being asked here. Also, that question followed at the end of a series of questions about overall federal spending and the use of a shutdown to get cuts overall, which would tend to bias the specific question being reported. Even with that, only 20% thought a shutdown would be good for the economy, with 56% believing it to be bad. A shutdown presumably would have to have a hope of having a major impact on spending, ObamaCare and overall, or hope that the bluff would get the cuts desired.
Unfortunately for backers of this strategy, it won’t work without a government shutdown, as David Freddoso explains:
The funding for Obamacare does not depend on the government spending bill (the “continuing resolution”) that Cruz has now announced he will block from getting a vote on the Senate floor.
Obamacare gets funded whether that bill passes or not. So there’s no such thing as funding the rest of the government and “leaving out” funding for Obamacare. If there was, this whole thing might almost make sense. There would be real leverage.
The whole concept of “defund” is to block funding for other, unrelated government functions until Democrats agree to trade away funding for Obamacare. This detail is vital — and I’m convinced that most conservatives who have bought into this strategy have been misled to believe we can hold off Obamacare for a while with a government shutdown. Cruz has repeatedly said, as he does in the interview above, that he’s just trying to keep Democrats from funding Obamacare. But that’s a bit misleading. Obamacare is already funded, and that won’t change if this bill gets stalled by a filibuster. During the shutdown, the Marines don’t get paid, but Obamacare gets funded.
Tom Coburn has been trying to explain that for weeks. The problem is that almost all of the funding ObamaCare gets is through already-levied taxes and fees passed into statutory law, not in the budget process. The only way to prevent its funding, especially that of the exchanges and subsidies that Tea Party conservatives most want to stop, is either through full repeal or delay. A government shutdown doesn’t stop the exchanges from going on line or the subsidies from being paid out in a little over a week from now, nor does it arguably stop the salaries of those who operate the exchanges or cut the subsidy checks. ObamaCare is in the same class of statutory spending as Medicare and Social Security, and even the bureaucracies of those organizations continue to get paid in a government shutdown thanks to their statutory requirements for spending.
We will undoubtedly see more polling on these issues this week, and Cruz and his allies had better hope for better numbers than this. Democrats have every reason to encourage a shutdown over this issue in order to distract from (a) the debacle of the ObamaCare rollout that will begin in earnest on October 1, and (b) the question of why every other stakeholder in ObamaCare got a delay at the expense of the consumer, who got stuck with adhering to the individual mandate.