WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, argued Tuesday that Sen. Ted Cruz's plan to defund Obamacare by taking government spending hostage will fail, even as McConnell tried to shift the focus in the fight onto Democrats.
The Senate is weighing a continuing resolution, passed last week by the House, that will keep the government open after this month only if Democrats accept riders that defund the Affordable Care Act and make it more likely that the United States will default on its debt next month.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to strip those provisions from the spending bill once the Senate starts debating it on Wednesday. Cruz (R-Texas) -- who advocated for the House bill -- has vowed to prevent Reid from doing so by trying to filibuster the spending measure, which, if he were successful, would cause a government shutdown.
McConnell (R-Ky.) argued Tuesday that such a move was poorly considered.
“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."
Instead, McConnell said, Republicans should let the legislative process move forward and try to block Reid's expected amendment stripping the Obamacare provision.
“Once we invoke cloture, the focus will then turn to the Senate Democrats the majority leader is counting on to amend it," McConnell said. "He can only afford to lose four Democrats if he wants to restore funding for Obamacare. So, if five Senate Democrats vote against the majority leader, Obamacare will be defunded. That’s a vote we should want to have."
However, Democrats -- including those up for reelection in Republican-leaning states next year -- have adamantly opposed linking the president's health care law to funding the government.
For his part, Reid again slammed as irresponsible the strategy of using a government shutdown as leverage and pointed to a letter from the conservative Business Roundtable warning against a shutdown.
"Just as the economy begins to gain steam, some Republicans in Congress seem determined to derail four years of progress. They're obsessed with defunding health care," Reid said on Tuesday. "The business community is gravely concerned about the impacts of a shutdown on the economy, and middle-class Americans are really upset and concerned about the threat of this."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has cautioned against shuttering the government.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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