Republicans joined with Democrats late Thursday in a rare expression of angst at Sen. Ted Cruz for delaying a vote on legislation to keep the government funded past Monday.
The top Democrat in the Senate – Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. – attempted to move up the timeline for a series of votes that would strip provisions to defund Obamacare from a House-passed bill to finance government operations after Sept. 30. But Cruz and one ally, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, objected with the purpose of delaying the vote until Friday.
At the end, Reid relented; he said votes would begin at 12:30 on Friday.
And after days of behind-the-scenes grumbling, Republican frustration toward their conservative colleagues went public. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Tenn., joined with Democrats to criticize the delay as needless. Corker said GOP leaders in the House had told him “they would like to get the piece of legislation over there from the Senate as quickly as possible so they can respond.”
Corker went so far as to suggest that Cruz – who received bountiful media coverage for his 21-hour speech against Obamacare – was only delaying the vote because he had already advised outside conservative groups that the key vote would come Friday, and he wished to put on a “show” for them.
“It's not the Republican side that's asking to stall -- we only have two Republican senators who are asking to push this off,” Corker said.
The Tennessee senator’s comments laid bare the internal GOP divisions over funding the government, and some Republicans’ frustration toward the quixotic effort spearheaded by Cruz to use the shutdown deadline as a leverage point to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. The internal division over Obamacare has significantly slowed work toward a solution to fund the government – Cruz has characterized any Republican’s vote to dispatch the legislation back to the House as tantamount to supporting Obamacare, which would cause a number of GOP senators to fall out of favor with their constituents.
The problem for Congress is that time is running out for them to move forward with the process to fund the government with only days to go before a shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested on Thursday that the GOP in that chamber would not accept the Senate version of the stopgap funding measure, and would try to append new measures to it before returning the bill to the Senate.
Reacting to Cruz and Lee’s objections to hold votes Thursday evening, Reid could hardly contain his incredulity.
“Is this some kind of subterfuge to close the government?” he asked mockingly.
The Senate needs to hold a few votes before sending the legislation to fund the government back to the House. They need to vote to end debate, attach an amendment to do away with the provision to defund Obamacare, and vote to finally pass it.
“Everybody in this body knows how the votes are going to go,” Reid pleaded.
First published September 26 2013, 2:35 PM