After spending more than a week on defense, the GOP establishment has begun to fight back against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and his upstart campaign to defund Obamacare. Cruz, who last week successfully pressured the House GOP into passing a continuing resolution to fund the government that also defunds the president's signature program, now finds himself on the defensive, as leadership in the Republican Senate — and a scathing new Op-Ed in the conservative Wall Street Journal — casts doubt on his chosen strategy.
That strategy is a bit complicated, but essentially goes like this: In the hopes of stopping Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from stripping the Obamacare-defunding provision from the continuing resolution, Cruz is asking his fellow Senate Republicans to join him in filibustering the very piece of legislation he had demanded House Republicans pass. The hope behind this course of action is that the ensuing government shutdown — coupled with the grass-roots pressure Cruz insists he can bring to bear — will force Democrats to agree to defund Obamacare.
However, two new developments indicate that Cruz's gambit will not be embraced by a Republican establishment that has begun to see Cruz as something of a nuisance if not an outright liability. First, the Senate GOP's top two leaders — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn — both announced they will not join Cruz's filibuster campaign. "Sen. McConnell supports the House Republicans’ bill and will not vote to block it, since it defunds Obamacare and funds the government without increasing spending by a penny," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.
Next, a highly critical opinion piece in the influential Wall Street Journal chastises Cruz and his fellow advocate of a filibuster, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, by describing their shutdown plan as a "charge into fixed bayonets." The Journal continues:
The question is how to oppose ObamaCare when Republicans control only one house of Congress. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn points out that the defund and shutdown strategy is giving Mr. Reid an excuse to bust the spending caps and shift public attention away from ObamaCare's flaws. The only real way to repeal the law is to win elections. Our strategy would be to conduct an island-hopping campaign that attacks the law's vulnerable parts to help win those elections rather than invade the Japanese mainland.
But we've lost this debate, and Generals Cruz and Lee are in charge. If they do succeed and defund ObamaCare, we'll gladly give them due credit. But if things don't go well, let's not hear any excuses about "the surrender caucus" or claims that it would all have worked out if only everyone were as brave and principled as the generals up at HQ.