If Sen. Ted Cruz’s plan is useless, what is the alternative? It’s a question some sincere conservatives are asking, even though it’s not a very conservative question. Not all problems can be solved as we would like, when we would like; that is an accepted principle under our Constitution. The answer is that the opportunity to do something before 2014 was lost in 2010 and 2012 when Republicans couldn’t take the Senate or the White House (or both). At that point, Republicans would need Democratic help to get rid of Obamacare.
One way in which the Cruz maneuver is counterproductive is its white-hot focus on Republicans, not the Democrats whose help is needed to dump or delay Obamacare. One Republican senator, for example, is getting bombarded by calls, while his vulnerable Democratic colleague from the same state who voted for Obamacare is sitting pretty. Taking the focus and pressure off vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2014 is contrary to the aim of getting rid of Obamacare.
A staffer in one congressional office told me that one outside one group confirmed for us that “defunding is more important to us than the number, frankly.” Another said, “Fighting to keep [the Budget Control Act] at the cost of fully enacting Obamacare … is not where our focus is.”
Is unilaterally surrendering historic conservative gains on spending the new measure of conservative purity?
Why do Cruz and his minions do this? Well, saying you’ll attack Dems is both old hat and useless. Every Republican says that. To grab the spotlight, one sets out to convince Republicans that they are being sold out by fellow Republicans. This is a grand lie, and it explains, in part, the raging hostility toward Cruz from a large majority of Republicans.
I spent some time in Senate offices today. Highly disciplined and polite staffers are fielding calls in Republican offices. “Yes, the senator wants to defund Obamacare. [Long pause while the intern is berated.] Thank you for taking the time to call. I will pass your message on to the senator.” (The rudeness and disrespect of these callers is one clue as to their character and motives.) In the Dem offices, it’s business as usual. That is what Cruz is “accomplishing” — creating a feeding frenzy directed toward those who oppose Obamacare. That’s not advancing the ball; it’s advancing Ted Cruz at the expense of the cause he ostensibly wants to promote.
After Cruz’s concession this morning to move on to the House continuing resolution, some Republicans suggested they might try to deny a waiver (taking 60 votes) on two points of order on the House continuing resolution — namely that it spends more than the sequester cap on defense and defunding Obamacare temporarily increases the deficit. But these Republicans are confused. If the point of order isn’t waived, the House bill without amendments dies; they would have voted to kill the House continuing resolution to defund Obamacare. If the points are waived, however, then the Dems will try to amend the bill and the Republicans will have their up-or-down vote on funding Obamacare to be followed by an up-or-down vote on cloture on the amended bill.
Cruz, like a hooked fish, is beginning to struggle on the line.
A final note: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has noted that by exceeding the budget caps, the House broke a promise to the American people. A Coburn aide pointed out that a “vote for a shutdown is a vote for Obamacare because Obamacare funding continues during a shutdown, as the Congressional Research Service helpfully noted. Meanwhile, a vote for the House [continuing resolution] is a vote to help President Obama and Senate Democrats violate the budget caps, and it is a vote to fund the IRS, the agency responsible for persecuting conservative groups.” The cap-breaking is the doing of the outside groups who have been sending their troops to bombard Senate GOP offices.
As I noted above, these groups are saying the budget is not as important as defunding Obamacare. You can make an argument for this approach, but it’s weird that groups like Heritage Action now consider budget-busting to be a measure of conservative purity.
As Coburn’s staffer put it, “The groups behind the defund campaign deliberately traded a fight we can win on spending in exchange for the opportunity to fight a losing — and divisive — battle on Obamacare. They misled House conservatives and donors across the country.” Indeed.