For Congress to avoid a government shutdown this week, the process had to play out in a very specific way. As of this afternoon, the Democratic-led Senate has threaded the needle quite well.
The Senate sent a stopgap spending bill back to the House Friday, after a party-line vote to strip out language that would have cut off funding to the Affordable Care Act. [...]
Senate passage of the bill occurred as expected. First, 25 Republicans joined all members of the Democratic caucus in voting to limit debate on the measure -- thereby killing an attempted filibuster by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and their allies. Sixty votes were needed. The final vote was 79-19; two Republicans did not vote.
That last figure is of some interest because it signals the size of Cruz's caucus in the Senate. Push came to shove and 19 Republican senators were ready to block the spending bill, "defund Obamacare," and shut down the government. Whether you consider that total a large number or not is a subjective matter, but it's worth noting that 25 Senate Republicans voted with the Democratic majority.
Democratic senators voted together at every juncture, and there were no defections on final passage.
The next question, of course, is what happens next.
The original plan, widely expected on Capitol Hill, is that the House would recognize that it's out of time and options, and simply pass the Senate bill while transitioning to the Republican debt-ceiling crisis.
But the House has descended into complete chaos, and it's unclear what, if anything, can pass the lower chamber before the shutdown deadline on Monday.
From the Roll Callpiece:
House GOP leaders have been scrambling for days to find a plan that would get them to 218 votes, and without any sort of health care language, they might not be able to pass a bill without Democratic help. Sources say the GOP leadership team has tried to impress upon rank-and-file members that they would be blamed in the event of the shutdown, but so far that effort has not helped.
There's also this from the New York Times: "It is unclear what the Republicans want, other than a complete repeal of the health law. Senior House Republicans continue to assess their options as the Senate prepares to vote on Friday, and are likely to insert any changes over the weekend, when the House plans to be in session."
No one seems to have any idea what will happens next. A deeply divided House Republican caucus will meet at noon tomorrow to weigh their options.