Ted Cruz Loses His Fight to Block Obamacare in the Senate

In a quick series of votes, the Senate rejected a push by conservative members to defund Obamacare in a budget resolution, ending debate and sending the measure back to the House.

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In a 79-19 vote, the Senate voted to end debate on the House resolution funding the government. It was a sound rejection of a push by conservative members hoping to prevent what happened next: the body amended the measure, adding back the Obamacare funding Republicans wanted to cut, and then sent the approved bill back to the House. The final vote was 54-44, along party lines.

We're still a ways from any agreement that will keep the government open past September 30 — a prospect that seems increasingly unlikely. This vote was an important one for those hoping to defund Obamacare, reflected in the fact that the conservative anti-tax group Club For Growth is including the vote in its annual scorecard measuring members of Congress. A source on the Hill told The National Review that "this vote is the new TARP" — in other words, a vote that will be used as shorthand for "sufficiently conservative" in the future. Among those voting no, as conservative activists wanted, were Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Lee of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida. And, interestingly, Sen. Jerry Moran, the head of the Republican party's Senate campaign committee.

For Republicans hoping to come up with a compromise to avert a shutdown, the vote for cloture (as it is technically known) allows the slow-moving process to advance. Now the Senate will return the House bill — including the Reid-Mikulski amendment adding back Obamacare funding and setting the end date of the resolution as November 15 — allowing the negotiation process to proceed. Which shifts the burden of negotiating between conservative and more-moderate Republicans back to Speaker John Boehner, who has so-far been unable to develop a plan to do so.

That the vote didn't happen until today frustrated some Senate Republicans, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who blamed Cruz's 21-hour filibuster and push to hold the vote on Friday for unnecessarily giving Boehner less time to come up with a deal. For Cruz, though, there's little question that his week has been a complete success. A new poll from Public Policy Polling indicates that Cruz is now leading the 2016 presidential field among likely Republican candidates — up 3 points over Sen. Rand Paul — precisely because of his adamant insistence on catering to the demands of the party's conservative base.

Update, 4:40 p.m.: Reid said from the floor of the Senate this afternoon that the body would not return until Monday, meaning that the House could only avoid a shutdown by passing the Senate version of the resolution. "This is the only legislation that can avert a government shutdown," Reid said, "and that time is ticking as we speak."

Appropriately enough, here is how Friday's session started.

Correction: This post originally suggested that a final vote would happen over the weekend.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.