By Robert Romano
“I want to be absolutely crystal clear — any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead. Dead.”
That was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) telling reporters last week that there would not be the votes to pass a House Republican plan to defund the health care law via the continuing resolution.
Something he and his colleagues might consider, however, is that that really cuts both ways.
Republicans have 46 members in the U.S. Senate, more than enough to defeat cloture on any continuing resolution that will ultimately result in Obamacare being funded.
To do so, they will first have to block a parliamentary maneuver by Reid to proceed to the continuing resolution in a manner that will allow the defund Obamacare language to be stripped out with a simple majority vote.
According to Breitbart.com’s Matthew Boyle, “They could refuse to grant cloture in the first place until a unanimous consent agreement is reached in the Senate that any amendment added to the bill post-cloture would also be subject to a 60-vote threshold. They could also require Reid to fill what is known as the ‘amendment tree,’ a list of amendments that is the maximum of what could be considered on a bill, with amendments other than that one, before agreeing to grant cloture.”
But, reports Boyle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refuses to commit to using all the tools in his parliamentary toolbox to do just that. He would be well advised, however, that consciously voting to proceed to any bill that invariably winds up funding Obamacare — even if the amendment to strip the defund language is to be agreed to post-cloture — is just the same as proceeding to a bill where the defund language had already been removed.
Yet, Senate Republicans appear to be content with playing dumb and pretending they will be voting to proceed to legislation that defunds Obamacare — when everyone already knows it in the end it will not.
For example Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said, “It doesn’t seem to make much sense to vote ‘no’ on a bill that contains the defund-ObamaCare provision. I don’t know anybody in our conference who’s for ObamaCare, so I think they’d vote ‘yes’ to get on a bill to defund it.”
That doesn’t sound like Senate Republicans are really committed to the defund strategy. But even if they aren’t — Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of” — there is another case to be made for waging a filibuster.
It would strengthen the GOP’s hand. When it is clear that there are neither the votes to fund Obamacare nor to defund it in the Senate, it would force Reid and the White House to the negotiating table.
While many observers have suggested that Reid and Obama will never compromise, history suggests otherwise.
The continuing resolution passed in March 2011 was a compromise largely negotiated by House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) that resulted in some small cuts to the budget. Sequestration was another compromise in exchange for raising the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion in August 2011. The tax deal in December 2012 was yet another compromise in exchange for avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff.
This speaks not only to the willingness of Democrats to make a deal, but also to the utility of Republicans using these leverage points, whether they be continuing resolutions, debt ceiling increases, or otherwise, to achieve major concessions.
As Sen. Ted Cruz noted on Fox News in an interview with Neil Cavuto, “I know for sure that you lose 100 percent of the battle that you begin by surrendering, and all these Republicans who say we can’t win, if they want, these various pundits who want us to surrender, that will make sure we can’t win.”
Cruz is right. Consider the alternative offered by the Washington, D.C. establishment, which frowns upon any confrontation over the continuing resolution or debt ceiling. They fear anything that smacks of a government shutdown or risks default. They would apparently just have Obamacare opponents simply capitulate.
But surely to constituents of Republican senators — who have sworn up and down they oppose Obamacare — submission to a law that will force them onto government-run, taxpayer-funded health insurance is untenable.
They will intuitively understand what this fight is all about, and come 2014, 2016, and subsequent election cycles, they will likely collect political scalps, or attempt to, of any senator whom they perceive forced them onto Obamacare.
In a stark warning to senators, Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens defined the choice facing the so-called deliberative body: “The message for the Senate is very simple: If you vote to fund Obamacare via the continuing resolution, you will own the health care law. If you vote to invoke cloture on a continuing resolution that funds Obamacare, you will own it. And if you vote against a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare, you will own it, too.”
So, the choice belongs to each and every senator. They can stand with the American people, and block cloture on any continuing resolution that funds Obamcare, or they can roll over and let it be implemented.
But they would be well-advised that should they surrender, the American people will not forget — and they are not forgiving.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.
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What was it about Rand Paul’s filibuster that has captivated conservatives all over the country and reinvigorated their desire to fight for our Constitutional Republic? The irony is that the drone issue was not even one of the most popular issues among many conservatives until last night. I suspect that many conservatives don’t necessarily agree with some of Paul’s assertions about targeting terrorists like Al-Awlaki overseas, although we are all (everyone except for McCain and Graham) concerned about targeting Americans on American soil. Yet he has become an overnight sensation, not just among his core libertarian base, but among the broad conservative movement.
Conservatives have been starving for a fighter; longing for someone who will do something drastic, engage in a media savvy fight against an imperialistic president who has no respect for checks and balances and an invidious disregard for the separation of powers.
We have witnessed this president shred the Constitution and implement his radical agenda by administrative fiat. We the People stand by flummoxed and frustrated at the lack of courage among Republicans to counter the president with anything more magnanimous than a press release. We have seen him abrogate our immigration laws, grant administrative amnesty, and let criminal aliens out of jail. Yet nobody has used their position and identified a point of leverage at which to take a stand and draw extended scrutiny to the issue or any other breach of authority.
Finally, when administration officials began asserting that the president might even have the power to launch drone strikes on American soil, Senator Paul decided he would hold up a major nomination to command the attention of the entire country. Many of us sat back and watched the impassioned speeches from Paul and the stirring words of Ted Cruz. We wondered why we had not witnessed this sort of spirited opposition during Obamacare.
Yet that is exactly the point. Most of these senators are new to Washington. They have charted a new path forward, one that is not paved with backroom deals but with forthright demonstrations of courage and commitment to the principles that buoyed them into office. Instead of cutting a deal to invoke cloture and having Brennan’s nomination sail to confirmation, Paul has united a fractious Republican Party against this – that is everyone except for Obama’s dinner companion Lindsey Graham.
Republicans have repeatedly entreated us to the tired bromide that they only control one-third of one-half….. What these banal bulls of Washington dealmaking don’t understand is that with complete control of the House and a filibuster strength minority in the Senate there is a lot they can do. With the ubiquitous nature of C-Span and social media, Republicans can use critical leverage points to seize on winning issues and put Obama in the defensive position.
That’s why yesterday’s act of cowardice on the CR in the House was so incomprehensible to many conservatives. Even if they planned to ultimately cave on Obamacare to avoid a shutdown three weeks from now, why not initially bring it to the floor under an open rule and debate Obamacare for a few days? Let’s at least draw attention to the injustice of Obamacare at a time when many people are feeling the pain of higher insurance premiums.
We are also told that the juggernaut of a biased media is too powerful to overcome were we to force some sort of a dramatic battle over critical issues, such as Obamacare or illegal immigration. It’s true in fact that the media is incorrigibly in the tank for the left, and there’s nothing we can do about that. But one thing about the media is that they are impressed by a show of force and stimulated by something new and exciting. Rand Paul proved that last night, as even some mainstream media reporters gave him positive coverage.
When the CR comes before the Senate, conservatives should hold it up at least for a day or two to educate the American people on the ramifications of funding Obamacare. When the nomination of the new radical nominee for EPA director comes before the Senate, they should take turns launching filibusters into the night, educating the public on how that agency has cost jobs and raised the cost of living on the working class. They should draw attention to onerous policies like ethanol mandates.
We didn’t send Republicans like Mitch McConnell to Washington to cut backroom deals and to passively and blithely ignore the injustices that are perpetrated by the statist class on a daily basis. Nor did we send Republicans to Washington to echo those injustices, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham do on a daily basis. It’s no coincidence that this effort was initiated by the disciples of Jim DeMint. And with the 2014 election cycle beginning now, it’s incumbent upon all of us to help send reinforcements to the ranks of our fighters.