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

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Mike Lee (Utah) started digging their hole on Wednesday when they conceded before the House voted on the continuing resolution that there weren’t enough votes in the Senate, so it would be up to House members to “stand firm.” Where was the support he was claiming to gather? What was the purpose of the whole escapade? House members via aides went ballistic on Wednesday evening.

Recognizing they were taking on water, Cruz, Lee and a handful of House Republican hardliners hastily called a news conference Thursday afternoon. (Rubio was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he’s figured out that the exercise is a fraud.) Cruz and Lee kept digging. Lee let on, in reference to the president refusing a one-year delay in Obamacare, that a shutdown was folly. He told reporters, “Shutdowns are bad. Shutdowns are not worth it. This law is not worth causing a shutdown over.” Yikes.

Obviously, the same is true of the group’s threatened shutdown; that is one of the principal reasons most Republicans reject the harebrained scheme. Cruz also refused to rule out a filibuster. But what would be the point if there were nowhere near 41 votes to shut down the government (i.e. prevent passage of a continuing resolution with the Obamacare funding on which the White House is insisting)?

Perhaps recognizing his miscue from Wednesday, Cruz insisted the House is where the fate of the continuing resolution would be decided. But it’s too late for that spin. This was his idea all along, and he claimed the country and fellow Republicans had rallied to his side. This claim would work only if he had votes in the Senate — and even then the White House would veto any measure without Obamacare funding.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R), in a separate appearance, would have none of this. He pitched the hot potato right back at Cruz. “We’ll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow. Then this fight will move over to the Senate — where it belongs. I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle.” Only a practiced pol like Boehner could refrain from laughing.

It was a revealing 24 hours for Republicans. Just as the Syria debacle convinced even Democrats that President Obama had no clue what he was doing, the glaring lack of any viable plan may now cause a number of House and Senate Republicans to back away from the shutdown crew. Finally, it has become common among Hill Republicans to openly say what many understood from the get-go: This is amateur hour, at best a fundraising scheme and self-promotional vehicle for Cruz and groups like Heritage Action.

Things now should play out as expected. The House will pass its continuing resolution. Cruz and a few cohorts will try to stop any continuing resolution that includes Obamacare funding. They will lose, sending a bill with Obamacare funding back to the House. The House will pass it and turn to the debt ceiling, the sequester and whatever items they think can be extracted from the administration. Gee, who could have foreseen this? Well, most serious observers and members of both parties.

Republicans should be grateful to Cruz and Lee for their public self-immolation. The quicker they get past the defunding nonsense, the quicker they can focus on real possibilities for deal-making. As for Cruz, what all Republicans can now realize is that his campaign against them on defunding was dishonest in that he never had sufficient support and had no end game; and the only one who benefited was Cruz. At some point fellow lawmakers and even donors may realize Cruz’s interests and the interests of the GOP clash.