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Train Wreck Weekend

September 27, 2013

Last week Texas Senator Ted Cruz promised to do “everything necessary and anything possible” to defund Obamacare as part of the budget resolution needed to keep the federal government operating after Monday. The House voted last Friday to do exactly that, and the budget resolution went to the Senate. Its first test there was a vote to end debate – a “cloture” vote, in Senate parlance. The cloture vote was scheduled for noon on Wednesday. Only if cloture passed would Democrats have the chance to restore Obamacare funding to the budget resolution.

So Cruz vowed to filibuster. He told Fox News on Sunday that “a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare.” On Tuesday afternoon, Ted Cruz took the Senate floor and spoke for 21 hours, in an effort that was billed as a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style filibuster for the people. Only it wasn’t a filibuster, because a filibuster is by definition intended to keep something from coming to a vote. When the time for the vote came, Mr. Cruz stopped talking and sat back down. Furthermore, he actually voted for cloture, in spite of his own statement that a vote for cloture is a vote for the hated Obamacare.

This afternoon, the Senate refunded Obamacare and sent the budget resolution back to the House of Representatives. House Republicans hold two inconsistent interests: they want to defund Obamacare before it goes into effect, and they don’t want to be blamed for shutting down the government. The problem is, the only leverage Republicans have to defund Obamacare is the threat to shut down the government.

You can be sure that Republicans are working hard right now, and will be working hard most of the weekend, trying to figure out how to threaten to shut down the government convincingly enough to get Obamacare defunded but not so convincingly to be blamed for it.

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