September 23, 2013

If you caught Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) or Mike Lee (R-Utah) on the Sunday talk shows, you would quickly realize that these two have absolutely no idea what they are doing. The Politico headline “Cruz scrambles to salvage strategy” entirely misses the point: There’s nothing to salvage.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Let me start by noting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been silent the last few days. Did he finally figure out how empty the plan was he’s latched onto? Is he embarrassed to imitate the ludicrous happy talk? (A classic came from a benighted Cruz aide: ” No need for infighting. We all oppose Obamacare, right? We all support defunding, yes? So let’s do it!”  Oh, yes, let’s!  Surely the Democrats will join them, right?)

Cruz confirmed that after begging the House and praising them for the continuing resolution with no Obamacare funding, he will insist it be filibustered. And then what?  Well, the whole gambit makes cotton candy look like a nutritious meal:

WALLACE: . . . The problem is that you would be blocking a bill which you actually support, which would fund the government but defund ObamaCare. So, how are you going to get other Republican senators on board to block a bill that you support?

CRUZ: Well, let’s be clear. Last week’s vote was a tremendous victory. Just a few weeks ago, no pundit in Washington thought it was possible we would see the vote we saw on Friday. Last week, the House of Representatives voted to defund ObamaCare, and now, next week, as you know, the fight moves to the Senate.

And I think next week is a time for party unity. I think next week, all Senate Republicans, I hope, should come together and support the House bill.

In my view, Senate Republicans should stand united to stop Harry Reid from changing the House bill and, in particular, from inserting the funding from ObamaCare with 51 votes. That’s going to be the fight procedurally whether he’s able to use a straight party line vote, just Democrats, to put ObamaCare back.

And you know what? If Senate Republicans stand together, we can stop Harry Reid from doing it.

WALLACE: Well, I’m confused. Are you going to block consideration of the bill? Basically, the first issue is, are you going to allow consideration of the bill? And you can filibuster that after — if you lose that, then a simple majority could take out ObamaCare. So, are you going to allow consideration of the bill, have an up-or-down vote on defunding ObamaCare, or are you going to block them from even taking a bill which you support?

CRUZ: Well, the first order of business is going to be to ask Harry Reid if he will agree to allow amendments to be subject to a 60- vote threshold. And that’s typical in the Senate. We have a lot of amendments that are subject to 60-vote threshold.

Now, in all likelihood, he’s going to say no because he wants to use brute political power to force ObamaCare funding through with just Democrats, exactly the same he passed the bill three years ago.

Now, if he does that even, then Senate Republicans have the tool that we always used when the majority leader is abusing his power, which is we can die cloture. We can filibuster and say we will not allow you to add the funding back for ObamaCare with just 51 votes and it takes –

WALLACE: Sir, if I may, you say this is brute political power. Other times, you said it’s a procedural gimmick. It’s Senate Rule 22, which has been around for years. . . .

CRUZ: Chris, what’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. You’re right, that is one rule. But there is another rule that says it takes 60 votes to get cloture. And that’s the reason the Senate, generally, on controversial votes, we work out an agreement for it to be subject to a 60 vote threshold because the majority — if the majority is going to run the minority over with a train, the minority has the ability to stop them. . . .

If it was a Supreme Court argument, you’d have eight justices interrupting to express astonishment and Justice Clarence Thomas fuming that this guy doesn’t have a case.

Cruz is wrong, on multiple counts; for starters Harry Reid will be all too happy to have an up-or-down vote on the House bill; it’s Cruz who doesn’t want one. All of this does give new meaning to the expression that “there is no there, there.”

Lee was just as bad:

DAVID GREGORY:

Public opinion is running against Obamacare, that’s a fact. You also don’t have support in the Senate to de-fund Obamacare, do you?

SENATOR MIKE LEE:

Well, look, here’s the issue. We have to ask the question, how many more people will have other lose their jobs or have their wages cut or lose their health care benefits before Congress acts, before Congress does something to protect the American people? How many states will have to announce that premiums are going up? You know, this week we saw Home Depot announcing that 20,000 employees will lose their health care benefits. The House boldly acted this week, and I commend Speaker Boehner for his leadership — . . . .

DAVID GREGORY:

But I asked a direct question. . . . Do you have support in the Senate to de-fund Obamacare or don’t you?

SENATOR MIKE LEE:

We have support in the Senate. All 45 Republicans in the Senate, in March, voted to de-fund Obamacare. We will keep those and add a 46th, Jeff Chiesa from New Jersey. I nope that a few Senate Democrats, particularly those from red states who are up for reelection this year, will consider joining us because this is what the American people ask–

Actually, they need 51 votes to pass a continuing resolution without Obamacare funding. They don’t have it. They’ve never had it. And if they did, the president would veto it. And to boot, it isn’t clear at all that 45 GOP senators want to filibuster a bill they asked for.

You wonder if Lee and Cruz understand how empty and pointless is their gambit. Or do they understand all too well and are intent on perpetuating a fraud?

The irony is that the House leadership once had a plan to put the Obamacare defunding measure in a separate bill that would force Senate Democrats into an uncomfortable up-or-down vote. But the House hotshots sunk the so-called Cantor plan. They gave Cruz what he wanted and now Cruz can’t do anything with it.

Those waiting for Cruz to get his comeuppance, a movie moment when some veteran senator calls him out, may be disappointed. Cruz and company are expert at blaming others. They find a betrayal in every plot of theirs gone wrong. And they are incapable of being shamed. At best, once their plan fizzles so will some of their allure.

Lee’s and Cruz’s insistence that they are the ones “fighting” is belied by the facts. They are actually intent on running into a concrete wall again and again to prove their political machismo. For many Republicans this isn’t bravery but stupidity. And the contention that this Keystone Kops routine is what the base really wants assumes it, like Cruz and Lee, is really in favor of stupid gestures with no endgame.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.