The right throws in the towel! Debt limit fraud revealed

If Obamacare is such a huge threat to the nation, why are the defund-ers suddenly lying down?

Published September 20, 2013 4:19PM (EDT)

John Boehner, Ted Cruz                                                                             (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Jeff Malet,
John Boehner, Ted Cruz (AP/J. Scott Applewhite/Jeff Malet,

If Obamacare really is an existential threat to the country, you'd at least expect the Defund Obamacare caucus to exhaust all of its procedural options before accepting defeat.

But it turns out the whole campaign -- all the rallies around the country last month, all the grandstanding -- was a charade. And with the scam now revealed, everyone who's worried about a government shutdown or a debt limit-induced economic crisis can rest easy.

"We won't have an opportunity to filibuster," a Senate GOP aide, presumably to one of the Republicans behind the repeal push, told the Washington Examiner's Byron York. "It's going to be a simple majority vote."

Our anonymous aide is revealing too much. Specifically, that Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and the rest of the defunders don't intend to wage a maximal fight.

On Friday, House Republicans sent the Senate a bill that funds the government and guts the healthcare law. This should be Ted Cruz's big moment. He and his allies on the right should be demanding a full, open debate on the legislation -- an opportunity to take the Senate floor and talk and talk and talk until the country rises up behind him and forces Republicans and Democrats alike to vanquish the scourge of Obamacare.

Instead, they're quietly shrugging as some of their fellow Republicans abet Democrats in stripping the defunding provision from the bill. Cruz et al. were never going to win this fight, of course. But their passiveness at this juncture tells you all you need to know about the sincerity of the entire campaign.

In addition to being an excellent coda to an even excellenter GOP civil war, it's also good for the country.

It's one of a few signs that Republicans really have no intention of jacking Democrats up over the debt limit. “In the United States Senate, we will not repeal or defund ‘Obamacare,’” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, said Thursday on CNN. “We will not, and to think we can is not rational.”

All very true. And moreover, we now know that the Ted Cruzes and Mike Lees of the Senate won't even really try to bully the party into putting up a real procedural fight. After all, the same basic rules will probably apply to any larded-up debt limit bill the House sends to the Senate. Which means it's basically game over for any Republican, House or Senate, who thinks the GOP can use the debt limit as a vehicle for destroying the healthcare law.

By Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

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