Conservatives in the Senate spent weeks building grassroots support for a plan that would strip funding from the Affordable Care Act in a bill that keeps the government funded beyond Sept. 30.
And now that it's finally here, they don't appear to know what to do with it.
This has been the contention of House Republicans for some time — that Cruz was willing to say what he thought people wanted to hear, but he didn't have a plan to get it through the Senate. It was a long con, House Republican aides said, unless he actually expected President Barack Obama to sign a rollback of his signature legislative achievement in a grand, Rose Garden ceremony.
In reality, it was always going to be nearly impossible for Cruz to get any bill that defunds Obamacare through the Senate. Now, it's becoming even clearer why.
The House bill that continues funding for the government is expected to pass on Friday. It will go to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will face two potential filibusters of the legislation.
One is on the vote to begin debate — which is not likely to produce a fight. The language will enter the Senate with the House language, so there's no reason for conservatives in the Senate to vote against opening debate on the bill.
The key procedural movement will come next. A Democratic Senate aide said that it's likely Democrats will introduce an amendment to strip the House language defunding Obamacare after the vote to end debate occurs. Because of Senate rules, they can do so by a simple majority vote.
That makes the second cloture vote the one to watch. That's when Cruz, along with Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), can argue that voting to end debate will enable Reid to get rid of the House language that defunds Obamacare — "which is true," the Democratic aide said.
Here's why that's a problem: Reid needs 60 votes to end debate. He can count on all 52 Democrats (including himself), as well as the Senate's two Independents, to vote to end debate and strip the language defunding Obamacare.
That means he needs only six Republicans to vote to end debate. And 14 Senate Republicans have already expressed their dismay with the strategy — mostly because doing so involves the possibility of shutting down the government.
House Speaker John Boehner put Cruz in check on Wednesday. And whether Cruz lays down — like he signaled he was going to do Wednesday — or drags out the "defund" movement as long as he can will tell a lot about how serious he was about it in the first place.
In a press conference on Thursday, Cruz shifted tone and hinted that he might participate in a filibuster to block a Senate bill that includes funding for Obamacare.
"I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare," Cruz said, adding that a talking-style filibuster was also possible.
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