House and Senate Republicans have drawn their swords and are dueling over strategy and tactics regarding the House-passed Obamacare defunding measure that is attached to the government spending bill.
And it's getting personal.
The fight centers on how best to proceed in forcing Harry Reid to bring the CR to the floor with the defunding measure intact. Defunding supporters want to prevent Reid from following Senate rules to offer an amendment that would strike Obamacare defunding from the CR on a straight majority vote rather than requiring the 60 votes to reach cloture.
When Republicans who oppose the defunding gambit pointed out what the rules allow Reid to do, defunding proponents called it a "procedural trick" and came up with an alternative strategy: Yes, Republicans should vote to begin debate on the bill. But they should then vote in a bloc against limiting debate. That would stop dead the entire continuing resolution -including the defunding provision - as the clock ticks toward a possible government shutdown. Nothing could go forward. Republicans would then press Reid to adopt a procedure that would require a 60-vote threshold to pass an amendment striking the defunding provision. At that point, if the Senate's 46 Republicans remain united, Reid's amendment could not pass.
For Republicans who aren't part of the defunding drive, it was a jaw-dropping proposal. We're supposed to filibuster our own bill? they ask. We pushed the House to pass a continuing resolution with a defunding measure attached - and now we're supposed to kill it in the Senate? What sense does that make? And even if it made sense, they say, the plan is simply not possible.
That response has caused deep resentment among defunding proponents. No, they aren't proposing filibustering their own bill. "What we are filibustering is a procedural maneuver by Reid so that he will not be able to gut the bill that we want a vote on," says the aide.
What? Run that by me again. An effort to filibuster the House CR isn't really a filubuster against the House CR? In Otter's immortal words, "Don't stop him. He's on a roll":
"Our demand is for Reid to do one of two things," the aide continues. "Either agree that all amendments post-cloture have a 60-vote threshold, or bring the amendment up pre-cloture. McConnell can demand those things." Translated into less insidery language, that basically means forcing Reid to adopt a procedure that would allow Republicans, if they stay united, to stop Reid from taking out the Obamacare provision.
The only problem is that Republicans, in the minority, cannot force Reid to do that. "It would require UNANIMOUS consent to change the vote threshold," says one aide opposed to the defunding maneuver. "You really think Reid, Schumer, Bernie Sanders are all going to agree to make it EASY to strip Obamacare? Give me a break. And what leverage will they [the defunders] have to 'force' that? They will have just filibustered their own bill and shut down the government. They will be solely responsible for shutting down the government. Why would a single Democrat lift a finger to help them - much less give away Obamacare?"
And that's the bottom line. There is childishly naive belief that a light bulb is going to go off over Harry Reid's head and he is actually going to allow a vote on a measure that defunds the Democrat's signature legislation. Even more delusional, that Obama would then sign a CR that defunded his history making bill. If the defunding effort is being pushed to satisfy the conservative base, what do you think the liberal base will do to Democrats who allow Obamacare to be defunded? Why should Obama and the Democrats commit political suicide as a favor to Republicans?
But rational thinking on the right left the building months ago. We will get a government shutdown - or a full fledged revolt from the hard right if the CR passes the House and Senate without a defunding mechanism - and then, we shall see what we shall see.