There have been many accusations flying about the Senate procedural gymnastics over the Obamacare defunding House bill.  It has been, frankly, confusing because of Senate rules. 

As I understand it (and please correct me if I am wrong), Harry Reid does not want an up or down vote on the House bill.  If that happened, and if Democrats killed the existing House bill, Democrats could be blamed for “shutting down” the government.  If by some miracle the bill passed the Senate, Obama would veto it, and he would get the blame, in theory.

Instead, as part of a media/polictial strategy, Reid wants to invoke cloture on the bill, which then allows him under Senate Rules to strip out the defunding provision and send it back to the House without the defunding provision.  The Republican House then, if it doesn’t accept the Senate version, would get the blame.

Here’s how Heritage explains it:

According to multiple media reports, Senators will engage in procedural gymnastics this week with the explicit goal of removing the defunding language from the House-passed bill. Over the weekend, Heritage Action explained the importance procedure would play this week:

Before Reid can move to eliminate the defunding language, he must first secure 60 votes to invoke cloture. That vote, which is likely to come late next week, is a procedural motion that would facilitate efforts by Reid and others to strip the defunding language from H.J.Res.59. If Reid uses this procedural trick, a vote on the motion to invoke cloture is a vote to undermine the House-passed bill.

At some point this week, the Senate will vote to end debate on the House-passed bill. (In Washington speak, they will vote to “invoke cloture.”) What does this mean? Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) told Politico he would “vote to end debate on it, because [he likes] the policy.” But there is just one small problem: The vote is not on the underlying policy, but rather the procedure Reid has dictated. On Twitter, NBC’s Tom Curry pointed out pro-Obamacare Senators would vote alongside Sen. Corker “So that Majority Leader Reid can offer a motion to strike the defund Obamacare provision from the [continuing resolution] CR & then vote on the clean CR.”

Curry is exactly right. If the Senate does vote to end debate, Reid will immediately move to strike the defunding language. Because of the nature of the Senate’s rules, Reid would not need 60 votes; he could do so with a bare majority of just 51 votes.

Twitter Tom Curry NBC Cloture Obamacare Defund

If this explanation is correct, then protestations from Mitch McConnell and others that they want to vote for cloture so they can vote on the House bill are not accurate.

Cruz is trying to force Harry Reid to allow a vote on the existing House bill. I don’t know that his procedural gambit will work, but if Heritage’s explanation is correct, voting for cloture will ensure there never is an up or down vote on the existing House defunding bill.


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