Who Will Use Procedural Tricks to Fund Obamacare?

Posted: Sep 23, 2013 9:08 AM
Who Will Use Procedural Tricks to Fund Obamacare?

Although the Senate has not begun debate on the House-passed year-end funding bill that permanently defunds Obamacare (H.J.Res.59), some pundits and politicians are going to great lengths to confuse the public, muddle the message and protect Obamacare funding.

In a key vote alert issued over the weekend, Heritage Action explained the importance procedure would play this week:

“Before [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid can move to eliminate the defunding language, he must first secure 60 votes to invoke cloture. That vote, which is likely to come late next week, is a procedural motion that would facilitate efforts by Reid and others to strip the defunding language from H.J.Res.59. If Reid uses this procedural trick, a vote on the motion to invoke cloture is a vote to undermine the House-passed bill.”

Procedural gymnastics to be sure, but process always affects policy.

Politico reported late last week that some Senators, including Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC), were unconvinced the process mattered that much. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was the most direct, though: “I’d vote to end debate on it, because I like the policy…The notion of encouraging Republican senators to vote against a bill they support doesn’t seem like a very sensible strategy to me.”

Forget the chess versus checkers analogy; this is like playing pin the tail on the donkey after drinking too much Jack Daniels.

Suppose Reid’s amendment was not simply striking the defunding language, but it also included $250 billion in stimulus spending. Would Corker and others ignore the elephant in the room – the vote that comes after the cloture vote – simply because they like the underlying bill text?

Of course not.

Reid’s procedural gimmickry serves two purposes, though. First, enable some Obamacare opponents to quietly allow Obamacare funding to continue. Second, allow his vulnerable colleagues to fly beneath the radar.

As Andrew McCarthy observed, this Obamacare defunding debate “could have long-term benefits as Democrats up for election in 2014 and 2016 — Democrats who have gotten Obamacare fixes for themselves – are forced to defend Obamacare in the light of day.”

Chief among them is someone like Sen. Mark Pyror (D-AR). Obamacare could not have passed without Pryor’s vote, and there is every indication to believe he is extremely sensitive about it heading into his first Obamacare reelection.

According to the New York Times, Pryor did not attend former President Bill Clinton’s Obamacare speech in Arkansas because he did not want to “risk of being too closely associated with the health care law, according to one person with knowledge of his plans, but who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.”

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) all face similar dilemmas with this week’s Senate action. One thing is certain, though, all four will be in a tough spot this week if, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested, opponents of Obamacare “stand side-by-side”:

“So if [Harry Reid] says ‘I'm going to run the Republicans and ignore the bill passed been and I'm going to do this on a 51 vote threshold,’ in my mind, it should be easy for them to stand and support House Republicans. Any vote to allow Harry Reid to add funding, a vote for cloture, is a vote for Obamacare.”

The Byron York (no fan of the defund effort) suggested there are not “the votes – 41 in the Senate – to successfully filibuster a resolution that does fund Obamacare.” That may or may not be true, but that is only because some Senators are looking for a convenient excuse to allow a bill that funds Obamacare to move forward. Sadly, that will give folks like Pryor, Hagan, Begich and Landrieu a free pass on Obamacare.