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House GOP Leaders' Weird Plan To Defund Obamacare Now Throws Ted Cruz Under The Bus

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House GOP leadership has a message for Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas): "Hey, if you don't like our plan to defund Obamacare, go ahead and filibuster it. For two weeks." The GOP infighting that's plagued the House has just gone bicameral.

Republicans, as you probably know, have attempted to defund or defang the Affordable Care Act some 40-odd times. (I ranked them. The seventh time was really great, trust me!) It's always a gesture of futility, because no one in his right mind thinks that these efforts are going to be met with anything other than a presidential veto. The whole point of these periodic attempts is to give congressional noobs, who weren't around to fight the Obamacare battles in the first place, the chance to receive a "Merit Badge In Obamacare Defund Attempts" to show off to the low-infos back home.

It's an eternal process. But now, these exercises in nihilism are colliding headlong with the looming budget crisis. Republican leadership would like to avoid the political fallout from a government shutdown ahead of a midterm election cycle that favors them as long as they don't muck about with the underlying electoral plate tectonics. However, they still have to placate the anti-Obamacare zealots. That ball is now in the hands of House Republican leadership, and the play they are calling is one kooky gimmick.

What the House wants to do is bring to the floor a continuing resolution to fund the government, pacing everyone past the first fiscal crisis hurdle, with a little addendum attached that would defund the Affordable Care Act. The idea here is that once again, everyone gets to collect a merit badge and brag about it. But the Obamacare dead-enders aren't having it, because they fret that the Senate will just vote to strip the addendum out before sending the resolution up for the president's signature.

As Jake Sherman and Ginger Gibson report:

With no Democratic support expected, just 17 Republicans need to oppose either the rule or the bill to blow up the entire plan. Conservatives said they have already locked up enough opposition to prevent the bill from moving to the floor. Of course, they say that a lot.

Since then, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has taken his stab at placating his rowdy colleagues, promising to give them the chance to demand a one-year delay in funding Obamacare in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. There are two problems with this plan. First, the White House has made it painfully clear that they won't be doing any negotiations over the debt ceiling. They'll take a clean raise in a timely fashion, thank you very much. The second problem, of course, is that a failure to raise the debt ceiling will spawn a default crisis and economic Armageddon -- and the political fallout from that would probably be a wee bit more severe than a mere government shutdown.

Conservatives are calling this "a grand betrayal" and a sellout, and GOP senators, like Ted Cruz, are miffed about the way all of this leaves the Senate holding the bag. As TPM's Sahil Kapur reports:

A press advisory by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) described the plan as “procedural chicanery.” He said the proposal “easily allows Senate Democrats to keep funding Obamacare. If House Republicans go along with this strategy, they will be complicit in the disaster that is Obamacare.”

According to Sherman and Gibson, though, House leadership is basically sick of Ted Cruz's criticism, and "senior Republican aides" are essentially saying that this whole play "is a dare, of sorts, to Senate Republicans":

If figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) call the plan chicanery, and other conservatives say the House is weak, GOP leadership wants to see him and others stand up and filibuster the CR. In short, the House is sick of getting blamed for being weak on Obamacare.

Asked whether they are trying to put pressure on Senate Republicans to filibuster, Rogers said, “You can say that.”

A senior GOP aide said, “They should be preparing for a two [to] three week filibuster, to prevent the Senate from adjourning.” The aide added that there are enough Senate Republicans to prevent a funding bill from reaching President Barack Obama’s desk.

So basically, at a time when the country has to surmount two big budgetary challenges, you have the House GOP leadership falling out with the House GOP rank-and-file and rising tensions between the GOP caucuses in both houses over who gets to be king of the "we tried to defund Obamacare the hardest" mountain.

Good luck with this ever-unfolding, third-rate, junior high school psychodrama, America!

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