Speaking on the Senate floor, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell cut ties with Sen. Ted Cruz’s threat to use a filibuster against a bill with language defunding the president’s health care law.
Facing increasing criticism from conservative groups and a primary opponent, McConnell argued Senate Democrats need to join the effort in order to take out funding for Obamacare while avoiding a government shutdown.
“I just don’t happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare,” McConnell said. “All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded. And none of us want that.”
The House passed a spending measure to fund the federal government past Oct. 1, but it does not pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Cruz is urging the GOP caucus to vote against that legislation because Democrats have indicated they will amend it to restore the health care law’s funding. He argues any vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor is in effective supporting Obamacare as a whole.
Rather than focus on GOP infighting, McConnell proposed Democrats ought to join the effort to defund the law by having a simple majority vote on the House bill.
“Democrats have been hearing the same complaints about Obamacare the rest of us have. The spotlight should really be on them. This is a rare opportunity to defund the law with a simple majority. We should have that vote,” he said.
The idea of five Democrats siding with the GOP caucus seems equally unlikely, however.
And several observers—including Sen. Rand Paul—note the president isn’t likely to authorize a bill overturning his signature law.
Cruz has been pilloried by GOP pundits and lawmakers for pushing the idea, which many argue is more self-serving for the freshman senator than anything else.
Despite criticisms that the Cruz plan isn’t the best strategy for Republicans to adopt, grassroots activists have taken this as another opportunity to slam McConnell’s leadership calling it the “ultimate betrayal.”
“We knew Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn (of Texas) weren’t with us when they voted to fund Obamacare earlier this year. But then, under pressure from grassroots, they said they supported the effort to defund it. They even ran political ads in their home states to make voters think they were on their side,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director Senate Conservatives Fund.
And Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin who is taking on McConnell says he stands with Cruz.
“Like so many other crucial fights, Mitch McConnell has caved to Harry Reid on Obamacare and is refusing to fight to defund this disastrous legislation,” Bevin said. “There is really no difference between Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes—both would vote on the side of Harry Reid. I am proud to support conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz in his fight to defund Obamacare, and I promise the people of Kentucky: I will never cave to Harry Reid.”