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The current fight to defund Obamacare seems incomprehensible to many inside the Beltway. They explain with pious snark and dismissive ridicule that it is not a fight that can be won. They say that despite the federal government needing the House's approval to spend money, the House's approval is not really needed for the federal government to spend money. Well, the House's approval is needed, and Republicans won the House two elections in a row. This defunding CR should have happened in January, 2011. It should happen now.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been out in front leading the fight to defund Obamacare. Last March, as Byron York points out, Cruz sponsored an amendment to "prohibit the use of funds to carry out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." Every Republican voted for the proposal, including Bob Corker, John McCain, Lyndsey Graham, Mark Kirk, and Mitch McConnell. It was cosponsored by John Cornyn, Richard Burr and Tom Coburn, among others.
Holtz-Eakin wrote a typical piece declaring that the fight could not be won (and claiming Cruz admitted it) and so must not be attempted. Here is another one from David Freddoso. Rep Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) whines. Cruz vows to fight in the Senate. Sarah Palin supports Cruz, as does most of the rest of the House.
The House bill was sent to the Senate, where after the 60-vote motions to begin and cut off debate have passed, Senator Reid will arrange for an amendment stripping the defunding language. That can to be passed with a 51-vote margin, so all Reid needs are 51 votes. Senator Cruz moved to have amendments require a 60-vote margin, but Senator Reid objected.
Red state Democrats up for reelection will be able to vote against stripping out the defunding language, so they will have "voted against their party." As many as four could do so, leaving a 50 vote split for Vice President Biden to break in favor of stripping out the defunding language.
So rather than simply allowing that to occur, Senator Cruz and the Senate Conservatives Fund decided that the entire bill should be filibustered in the Senate until Senator Reid shows that his amendments won't strip the defunding language.
Whether the filibuster is sustained and Senator Reid withdraws the bill, or if it fails and the Obamacare language is stripped, the next move will be up to the House: either agree to the Senate's language, or pass something else and start the process over. Or, they could have a conference committee.
Obamacare opponents will be faced with a choice. As of now, the House really hasn't faced a tough vote. They expected the defunding CR to fail in the Senate, so the bill was really still a show vote, the same as the 40-odd other show votes to repeal or dismantle Obamacare.
Will they stick with defunding Obamacare paired with smaller bills funding such things as the military, as Senator Cruz suggests, or will they fund only part of the government in exchange for delaying parts of Obamacare, or will they move on to the debt limit? Any number of moves are possible.
The White House announced that it had invited congressional leaders to negotiate after the Senate vote. That probably means Speaker Boehner has indicated he will offer some other kind of deal to members. Whether he will use the votes of House Democrats to pass something remains to be seen.
The best thing is not to cede any more ground. Democrats -- and the vast majority of beltway Republicans -- are confident that Democrats win in any government shutdown.
But do they? The benefits of fighting tooth and nail to defeat Obamacare at a leverage point like the CR -- whether it's defunding, delaying, dismantling, or full repeal -- are more than just a chance to defeat the law. Showing voters that candidates they put in office mean what they say is priceless "earned media."
And what of President Obama? He has claimed that he would veto a CR that defunded Obamacare, but he is known for his habit of waffling, avoiding crises, and general lack of will. He is also known as being driven by political advantage.
He must know that Obamacare is going to be a disaster. He must know that its failures will reflect on him personally and on the entire progressive movement, as well. And if Obamacare fails, there is no chance at all that Americans, who don't even like Obamacare, would then approve his dream of a single payer system.
Obama's decision, unsupported by law, to pay for the exchange-based insurance of Congress and staff when no other American gets that benefit from their employer, is extremely unpopular. Republicans should reject this bribe, and include language making explicit that Congress never authorized that spending. Force Obamacare proponents to defend their exemption.
President Obama, if given the chance to sign a Continuing Resolution that funds the government but defunds Obamacare, would know that he could campaign in 2014 against Republicans for "stealing your health care." He could say, "Republicans hate you so much they wanted to shut down the government to take away your contraception."
It isn't likely that he would sign it, but it isn't impossible, especially if Democrats began to pressure him to save their electoral chances.