The conservatives also blamed Democrats for not acting on a series of miniature spending bills to reopen parts of the government.
Another problem: Congress’s Republican leadership. In particular, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) blamed his party’s leaders for . . . well, for acting on a series of miniature spending bills to reopen parts of the government.
“We kept talking, and in a negotiation, the person who keeps talking loses,” Massie said. “That’s what Harry Reid did so wonderfully. He refused to talk,” Massie said, referring to the Senate majority leader, who steadfastly refused to consider what Republicans were sending over.
The conservatives also, at times, seemed to blame their own faction. They lamented that one potential winning message — that the health-care law’s “individual mandate” should be delayed a year — had been obscured by other demands.
“We didn’t really articulate that well,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). “It kind of got lost in the shuffle of the initial ‘defund’ push.”
By the “defund” effort, DeSantis meant the attempt — led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — to defund the health-care law entirely. Defunding the law was even more odious to Democrats than delaying its impact. Its chances of being accepted were zero.
So, in hindsight, DeSantis said throwing the GOP’s weight behind the defunding effort was a mistake.
He did not mention that among the legislators who made this mistake was . . . DeSantis himself. “I fully support the House’s continuing resolution that will keep our government open while stripping funding from Obamacare,” DeSantis said in a statement on Sept. 19.
On Wednesday, the legislators at “Conversations with Conservatives” said they would look to the future. They hoped that — as in “Braveheart” — this abject defeat would lead to victory. Eventually.
Maybe new Republicans would be elected to Congress next year, they said. “This would have turned out better if we had more conservatives in the House,” Labrador said.
Reporters asked: Will they try the “Braveheart” strategy again? After all, if the Senate’s plan passes, the debt ceiling will need to be raised again in a few months. And the government will need to be funded.
But even before this fight ended, there was a sense that the next one might be different.
“I’m going to commit candor here,” Massie said. “I think we have less leverage on the next CR, and on the next debt-limit [debate], than we do right now.”
The vote, at last, came about 10:20 p.m. Conservatives clustered in the back of the chamber, looking at the votes tallying up. They lost, as expected — the vote was 285 to 144. The ayes had it.
Usually, when a big vote is won, that is the moment when somebody cheers. But in this case, both sides kept quiet. The conservatives and everybody else just filed toward the exits, out toward the end.
Rosalind S. Helderman and Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.