Ted Cruz’ tenure as a momentarily reasonable person lasted only a few days. After telling House Republicans that there was no way to stop Obamacare funding because the votes weren’t there in the Senate, Cruz went on Fox News and said that any senator who even votes to take a vote on any funding bill that doesn’t strip Obamacare of discretionary spending is a vote for that spending.
In a Sunday interview, Cruz told Fox News host Chris Wallace that Senate Republicans should stand together and refuse to vote for cloture by filibustering if Democrats added Obamacare funding to the bill.
“Any vote for cloture, any vote to allow Harry Reid to add funding to Obamacare with just a 51-vote threshold, a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare,” Cruz insisted. “And I think Senate Republicans are going to stand side-by-side with Speaker [John] Boehner and House Republicans, listening to the people and stopping this train wreck that is Obamacare.”
Yeah, that’s what they’re doing. They’re “listening to the people.” The same people who handed the Republicans a major loss on election day last year when they were running on a platform of defunding Obamacare. The same people who oppose defunding it by a 2-1 margin and oppose shutting down the government in an attempt to defund it by a 3-1 margin. You’re not listening to the people, you’re listening to the voices in your head.
Jonathan Chait points out just how monumentally bizarre this all is:
Step one of this far-fetched scheme was the passage of a “continuing resolution,” which keeps the government open, attached to abolishing Obamacare. Now it goes to the Senate. Once that bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, the majority can vote to strip away the provision defunding Obamacare. That vote can’t be filibustered. It’s a simple majority vote, and Democrats have the majority.
What Senate Republicans can do is filibuster to prevent the bill from coming to a vote at all. That’s the only recourse the Senate defunders have. And Ted Cruz is promising to do just that: “ I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together,” he says, “and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in.” A “committed defunder” in the Senate likewise tells David Drucker, “Reid must not be allowed to fund Obamacare with only 51 votes.”
In other words, the new stop-Obamacare plan now entails filibustering the defunders’ own bill. They can do this with just 41 votes in the Senate, if they can get them. But consider how terrible this situation is for the Republicans. If they fail, it will be because a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to break the filibuster, betraying the defunders. This means the full force of the defund-Obamacare movement – which is itself very well funded by rabid grassroots conservatives eager to save the country from the final socialistic blow of Obamacare — will come down on the handful of Senate Republicans who hold its fate in their hands. The old plan at least let angry conservatives blame Democrats for blocking their goal of defunding Obamacare. Now the defunders can turn their rage against fellow Republicans, creating a fratricidal, revolution-eats-its-own bloodletting.
There’s a famous, likely apocryphal, quote attributed to Napoleon: Never interfere with your enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself. But Cruz’ filibuster yesterday had nothing to do with actually stopping the law from taking effect, it had to do with two things: Getting campaign contributions and positioning himself as the One True Conservative for 2016.