According to sources on the Hill, there is growing support among Senate Republicans to support Sens. Cruz and Lee’s efforts to scuttle Sen. Harry Reid’s attempt to reinstate ObamaCare funding in the House Continuing Resolution. On Friday, the Senate is set to vote for cloture on the CR, which, if successful, will then allow Reid to resurrect ObamaCare funding with a simple majority. The effort by Cruz and Lee will most likely fail, but each additional GOP Senator that joins their block is another vote against Senate GOP Leadership.
This is not the place to unpack the confused and convoluted Senate rules. On Friday, the Senate will vote to end debate on the House CR that defunds ObamaCare. After that vote, the Senate will consider amendments to the bill and vote for final passage, all of which requires 51 votes. Ordinarily, the cloture vote would come after all amendments have been considered. The early cloture vote allows Reid to amend the bill and move to final passage on a partisan vote.
Technically, a vote for cloture on Friday would move the House CR forward to the point that Sen. Reid can reinstate ObamaCare funding. Were he to lose the cloture vote, he would have no ability to do this. Sens. Cruz, Lee and their allies have drawn a line in the sand and will vote against cloture, i.e. they will not vote to move the bill to where Reid can reinstate ObamaCare.
The Senate GOP Leadership is against the Cruz and Lee move. Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, the top 2 GOP leaders in the Senate, are actively urging Senators to vote against Cruz and Lee and support cloture on the CR. In other words, they want to move the bill further in the process, which they know will allow Reid to restore ObamaCare funding.
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.
General Ulysses S. Grant lost his first battle after being given command over all the Union forces. Rather than taking the lead of his predecessors and retreating, he gave a very famous order, “march to the left.” In other words, we’re not retreating, we’re not retiring, we are going to engage the enemy across the entire line.
Grant went on to lose several individual engagements while ultimately winning the war. Simply because he never retreated.
Cruz and Lee will lose the vote tomorrow. The roll call of the vote, however, will tell us who is with us in this fight. If they vote for cloture now, after the debate and the battle has been framed, then they are no better than fair-weather warriors.
Do not take this wrong politically, but we must “march to the left.”