What happens next in the Obamacare funding fight?
The GOP is factionalizing, with the conservative base backing the Cruz-Lee strategy to defund Obamacare, and the GOP establishment attacking it directly but mostly indirectly. It is a remarkable moment, crystallizing the long-simmering revolt against the leadership for its failure to fight on the principles the base cares about passionately. They seek a champion, and Ted Cruz grabbed what he saw as the opportunity to spearhead the opposition to Obamacare, a new program which the public also dislikes and fears.
By mobilizing the base, Cruz was able to overcome the resistance of Speaker Boehner, pillar of the GOP establishment and widely disliked by the base, and get the House to pass a continuing resolution defunding Obamacare while funding the rest of the government. Harry Reid is expected to restore Obamacare funding and send the bill back to the House, putting the ball in their court.
Senators Cruz and Lee want their colleagues to filibuster consideration of the House bill -- the very bill they and the base persuaded the House to pass. The etsbalishment is basically saying, absolutely not. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Cruz's senior senator John Cornyn have both let it be known they will not support of filibuster.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and we face a grand concordance if a continuing resolution is not passed and signed. Not only will funds run out for some (but not all) government functions, but Obamacare will kick in on October first.
Byron York, writing in the Washington Examiner, provides a highly informative explanation of the details of how this all is playing out, and characterizes what could happen next.
"The ball is in the Senate Republicans' court right now," says one plugged-in House GOP aide. "Because if they do not succeed, there is no imaginable situation where Congress can pick and choose which parts of the government are open or closed."
Translation: Cruz shouldn't expect any more help from the House, especially since some House Republicans suspect Cruz plans to blame them if --- or when --- the whole scheme collapses. Whatever happens, it seems unlikely House Republicans would jump again simply on Cruz's urging. If a filibuster ties up a government funding measure past Oct. 1, there will be no cavalry to save the day.
It is going to be very interesting, for sure. Obamacare will be a train wreck, and the establishment frets that Cruz may have given the Democrats and their lapdog media all the excuse they need to focus blame on the GOP. (for the opposite interpretation, see Is Ted Cruz the new Ronald Reagan?)
However the situation plays out, the defunding fight has sown bitterness and resentment among GOP lawmakers. Republican senators --- all of whom would defund Obamacare if they could --- believe Cruz and Lee have raised the hopes and expectations of millions of conservatives for something that can't be done, given Democratic control of the Senate. That, those senators believe, will lead to more division and cynicism among the conservative Republicans who make up the most activist segment of the party's base. And that is a lose-lose scenario.