Rand Paul: Senate GOP “probably can’t defeat or get rid of Obamacare” this year

While speaking to reporters last weekend, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) conceded that the push from conservatives in Congress to defund ObamaCare through the Continuing Resolution (CR) is unlikely to succeed, though he supports the effort and hopes that opposition will lead to a compromise to at least mitigate the negative effects of the law:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian leader and potential presidential contender, said Saturday Republicans likely have lost the battle on repealing Obamacare and should focus on improving the president’s signature health care law.

Paul struck a tone of realism Saturday — a day after the U.S. House voted for the 42nd time to derail the Affordable Care Act. The latest effort was a condition of funding federal operations past Sept. 30 or risking a government shutdown.

“I’m acknowledging that we probably can’t defeat or get rid of Obamacare but by starting with our position of not funding it maybe we get to a position where we make it less bad,” Paul, R-Ky., told reporters at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.
“In the end the sausage factory in Washington will make sausage,” Paul told The News. “Nothing good will happen though. They’ll pass a continuing resolution. When they do that though, they’re acknowledging that we’re borrowing $30,000 a second and I think that’s unconscionable.”

Cruz, Lee discuss defunding ObamaCare on Sunday shows

Ted Cruz on Fox News Sunday

There will be a showdown in the Senate this week on the Continuing Resolution (CR) and ObamaCare funding, that much was made clear by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) yesterday during his appearance on Fox News Sunday.

Last week, Cruz hinted that he would filibuster any CR that didn’t defund ObamaCare. But Cruz told Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, that he may attempt to block the motion to proceed on the House version of the CR if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to use a simple majority to strip out language that would defund ObamaCare.

“The first order of business is going to be to ask Harry Reid if he will agree to allow amendments to be subject to a 60-vote threshold — and that’s typical in the Senate; we have a lot of amendments that are subject to 60-vote thresholds,” Cruz told Wallace.

“Now, in all likelihood he will say no because he wants to use brute political power to force Obamacare funding through with just Democrats, exactly the same way he passed the bill three years ago,” said Cruz. “Now, if he does that, then Senate Republicans have the tool that we always use when the majority leader is abusing his power, which is we can deny cloture. We can filibuster and say we will not allow you to add the funding back for Obamacare with just 51 votes.”

House passes stop-gap spending measure, defunds ObamaCare

CR passes the House

The House of Representatives has passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the federal government until mid-December by a vote of 230 to 189. The stop-gap spending measure also contains language to defund ObamaCare, the very controversial 2010 healthcare law.

As you can see above, it was mostly a party-line vote, though two Democrats voted for the CR, while one Republican — Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) — voted against it. You can read his explanation for his “no” vote here. Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC) were the Democrats who voted for the CR.

House Republicans immediately held a press conference after the vote where conference leadership explained that they took action to defund ObamaCare “on behalf of the American people,” a majority of whom oppose the law and want it repealed, and hailed the CR’s passage as a “bipartisan vote.” They also explained that ObamaCare is having precarious effects on the nation’s economy and Americans.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called out Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Begich (D-AK) — Democrats who are running for re-election in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012 — citing concerns from residents and business owners from their respective states.

“The House has listened to the American people, now it’s time for the United States Senate as well,” said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to cheers and applause from Republican conference members.

Senate likely to strip language to defund ObamaCare

A procedural strategy being looked at by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would strike the language to defund ObamaCare out of the Continuing Resolution (CR), according to a report from The Hill:

Reid’s first move would be to schedule a vote to end debate on proceeding to the House continuing resolution. This would require 60 votes. Republican senators would vote to proceed to the bill because it would including the language to defund ObamaCare.

Then he would fill the amendment tree, defining what amendments could be considered in relation to the House legislation.

Reid would be sure that one of the pending amendments is a so-called “amendment to strike,” which would allow him schedule a future vote on stripping the language defunding ObamaCare and prioritizing debt payments.

Then Reid would schedule a vote to end debate on the House continuing resolution and proceed to final passage. This vote also requires 60 votes.
After this second cloture vote has passed, the pending amendments can be approved with a simple majority vote. At this point, Reid could strike the language defunding ObamaCare and prioritizing debt payments without having to rely on Republican votes. He could strike the language with Democratic votes alone.

Lindsey Graham pushes for another war in the Middle East

Lindsey Graham

The United States just averted what would have been an unnecessary war against Syria, largely due to public opposition. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is already beating the drum again, this time calling for war against Iran.

“I believe the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear weapon, not build a nuclear power plant,” Graham, who supported military strikes against Syria, told Mike Huckabee last weekend on Fox News.

“Look, how we’ve handled the chemical weapons threat in Syria. If we duplicate that with the Iranians, they’re going to march toward a nuclear weapon and dare Israel to attack them,” said Graham. “So in the next six months, our friends in Israel are going to have to take the Iranians on unless the United States can send a clear signal to Iran unlike we’ve sent to Syria.

Graham, who is facing three Republican primary challengers in his bid for re-election next year, said that he plans to put together a bipartisan coalition that will support the use of force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“I’m going to get a bipartisan coalition together. We’re going to put together a use of force resolution, allowing our country to use military force as a last resort to stop the Iranian nuclear program to make sure they get a clear signal that all this debacle called Syria doesn’t mean we’re confused about Iran,” explained Graham. “We may be confused as a nation on what to do with the chemical weapons in Syria, but we’re not confused as a nation as to what to do with the nuclear program in Iran.”

House Republicans want to fund government above sequester levels

House Republicans may be moving ahead with a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, but the measure they’re pushing will fund the government above levels set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act (BCA) set in place $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, which became known as the sequester. Those cuts, which are ultimately cuts to the rate of spending growth, went into effect in March after a temporary delay at the beginning of the year. Half of the cuts were applied to domestic programs, the other half to defense.

Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, noted last week that the original CR backed by House Republican leadership would have spent $988 billion in FY 2014, rough $20 billion above the levels set by the BCA.

“The Congressional Budget Office’s score of the House Republican CR shows that defense is funded at $20 billion above the sequestration-included cap for fiscal 2014,” wrote DeHaven. “However, non-defense funding is actually $1 billion below it. Thus, it seems clear that the CR was intentionally written to force the sequestration-defense issue, which would kick-in in January.”

The BCA set the level for spending level for FY 2014 at $967 billion. The latest CR proposed by House Republicans, which defunds ObamaCare, would spend $986 billion, funding the government until December 15.

Tension brewing between House GOPers and Ted Cruz

After several days of wrangling, House Republicans decided to move forward on a Continuing Resolution that defunds ObamaCare, which will mostly likely pass and head to the Senate, where it may not come to the floor for a vote at all.

The thinking is that the House will then pass a Continuing Resolution that funds the government (and ObamaCare) that can pass the Senate before the end of the month, thus averting a government shutdown.

But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) set some House Republicans off early yesterday evening. In a statement praising the latest House spending bill, the freshman senator acknowledged that there aren’t enough votes to defund ObamaCare. Even some Senate Republicans have expressed skepticism about the House CR for various reasons (more on that later today), though only a few have publicly knocked the defund ObamaCare approach.

“We commend House leadership and House Republicans for listening to the people and for taking decisive action to stop Obamacare, the biggest job-killer in America,” said Cruz. “Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so.”

“At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people,” he added.

House to vote on spending measure to defund ObamaCare

It looks like conservatives in the House of Representatives have succeeded. Robert Costa reported late yesterday afternoon at the National Review that Republican leadership will allow a vote on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, though what comes after that remains in question:

Leadership sources tell me the House GOP will soon vote on a continuing resolution that simultaneously funds the federal government and defunds Obamacare. Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are expected to announce the decision at Wednesday’s closed-door conference meeting.
Here’s how my sources expect this gambit to unfold: The House passes a “defund CR,” throws it to the Senate, and waits to see what Senator Ted Cruz and his allies can do. Maybe they can get it through, maybe they can’t. Boehner and Cantor will be supportive. But if Cruz and company can’t get it through the Senate, the leadership will urge Republicans to turn their focus to the debt limit, avoid a shutdown, and pass a CR that doesn’t defund Obamacare.

Conservative members in the House and outside grassroots and pro-growth groups have been pushing hard to kill a plan backed by leadership that wouldn’t defund ObamaCare. They’ve rallied behind an alternative proposed by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) that would delay and defund ObamaCare until 2015. Graves’ measure now has 79 co-sponsors, according to his office.

John McCain may finally retire

John McCain

After 27 long years on Capitol Hill and two failed presidential bids, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may finally be ready to retire. The Hill picked up on comments that the Arizona senator made during a recent interview:

The 77-year-old’s current term is up in 2016. When asked if this would really be his last term, McCain backtracked a bit.

“Nah, I don’t know,” McCain said. “I was trying to make a point. I have to decide in about two years so I don’t have to make a decision. I don’t want to be one of these old guys that should’ve shoved off.”

McCain made the initial remark about retirement off-the-cuff to a group of Obama supporters who interrupted the interview as he was arguing that television providers should unbundle their channels.

Yes, please?

McCain has long been a thorn in the side of conservatives and libertarians, voting for bloated budgets and pushing unpopular positions on a number of policies. Just this year alone, he opposed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on drones, backed more onerous gun control measures, and tried to help Senate Democrats push their big spending budget into a conference with the House without a guarantee against a stealth debt limit increase.

House GOP leaders resort to legislative trickery on ObamaCare

House Republican leaders have finally relented to growing pressure from grassroots conservative activists to defund ObamaCare — only they haven’t.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will push a stop-gap spending measure as well as a separate resolution that would defund ObamaCare. It would allow members to say that they voted to deny funding to the unpopular law while avoiding a feared government shutdown.

“Under the Cantor plan, the House would vote on two measures, the [Continuing Resolution] and a resolution that amends the CR to defund Obamacare,” wrote Jonathan Strong at National Review. “Both measures would be brought under a rule that allows the Senate to send just the clean CR to the president, but only after they first vote on whether to defund Obamacare.

“If the Senate voted against defunding Obamacare, they could then pass the clean CR,” he added. “While this would force a politically difficult vote for Democratic senators, it isn’t the do-or-die fight that many on the right envisioned.”

Politico noted yesterday that this is the same legislative sleight of hand that House Republicans used during spending battles in the spring of 2011. They also point out that House Republican leaders may be “forced to go further to the right and commit the bill outright to defunding [ObamaCare]” if there is strong pushback from conservatives in the House GOP Conference.

While this play may be popular among House Republicans looking for a way to avoid a government shutdown, conservative groups are blasting the gambit, saying it’s a poor excuse for satire.

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