Ted Cruz is engaged this afternoon in a faux-libuster — he’s taken the Senate floor and threatened to speak for as long as he’s physically able, but it’s totally irrelevant to the parliamentary situation. He’s not delaying the next Senate procedural vote on the continuing resolution, which is scheduled for tomorrow whether or not Cruz is still standing by then. He’s just using the Republican allotted time.
Meanwhile, while Cruz has presumably been preparing for his extended remarks, he’s been steadily losing votes. His “outside” strategy may get him plenty of press coverage, but he’s proving terrible at actually doing the job of lining up votes.
But the truth is that Cruz’s faux-libuster — not actually a filibuster at all, but just a pointless speech in support of a losing strategy that will do exactly zero about the issue — perfectly typifies the GOP position on health care.
The truth is that it’s totally legitimate to bring up problems with health care reform on a budget bill, and use it to pressure the White House to make changes to improve the system. Republican constituents really are complaining about problems with the Affordable Care Act, which like every government program ever won’t be perfect.
But Republican politicians aren’t (contrary to what Cruz says) listening to those constituents. They’re not preparing fixes for real problems with Obamacare; indeed, they’re mostly trying to undermine the program.
And while Cruz is very easy to mock (and yeah, I’ve been on twitter this afternoon doing it too) as a demagogue who is out for the fundraising and his presidential campaign, but as I argued over the weekend, a large part of why he is successful is because the would-be reasonable politicians in the party have largely given up on policy. The reason that Cruz’s phony shutdown threat has everyone’s attention, and that the House went along, is because there was no Republican alternative that might have actually improved — at least from their point of view — the legislation.
Republicans and conservatives have been quick to bash Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and the others who have pushed this “defund” strategy. And rightly so: it’s a recipe for Republican disaster. But unless there’s some alternative — a real one, that would really make the insurance market run better and would yield better results for those constituents who are complaining to them — then the Cruz strategy is really all they have. And that makes mainstream Republicans really in worse shape than Ted Cruz.