The top-two ranking Senate Republicans on Monday came out against Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) plan to defund the Affordable Care Act by filibustering the continuing resolution that keeps the government funded.
Both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn, the other Republican senator from Texas, did so in a roundabout way that signals how Republicans are going to approach their discontent with Cruz's plan.
Here's Cornyn's tweet:
McConnell will also not participate in a GOP filibuster. Like Cornyn, he will oppose an amendment to restore Obamacare funding in the continuing resolution, but he will not block the House-passed bill.
Here's the full statement from McConnell spokesman Don Stewart:
Senator McConnell supports the House Republicans’ bill and will not vote to block it, since it defunds Obamacare and funds the government without increasing spending by a penny. He will also vote against any amendment that attempts to add Obamacare funding back into the House Republicans’ bill. If and when the Majority Leader goes down that path, Washington Democrats will have to decide—without hiding behind a procedural vote—whether or not to split with their leadership and join Republicans and their constituents in opposing the re-insertion of Obamacare funding into the House-passed bill.
Cornyn and McConnell's statements are more complicated than they look.
Senate rules will make things a little awkward for Cruz as the House-passed bill moves through the upper chamber. They make it possible for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce an amendment to strip language in the House bill defunding Obamacare — after the Senate has voted to end debate on the bill.
Votes to cut off debate require 60 votes (and therefore at least six Republican votes) but the vote on the amendment and on final passage will only require a simple majority, meaning Reid can get his way with only Democratic support on those votes.
Cruz calls this approach a series of "procedural gimmicks" by Reid, but it's in keeping with normal Senate rules. A Republican filibuster would have to come before Democrats introduce an amendment to strip the language in the House-passed bill that defunds Obamacare.
So, somewhat ironically, Cruz has signaled plans to filibuster the House-passed bill that includes language to defund Obamacare.
In their statements, McConnell and Cornyn are saying that they will support the House bill that defunds Obamacare, but they hint that they will not go along with a plan to filibuster that same bill. That could be how other moderate GOP senators follow suit and allow a "clean" continuing resolution that doesn't defund Obamacare to pass the Senate.
This post has been updated.
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