POLITICS: PennAve

Senate Republican leaders won't back Tea Party's Obamacare defund strategy

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Obamacare,Senate,Tea Party,Health Care,PennAve

The top Senate Republicans will not vote with their Tea Party faction in the effort to block the health care reform law in a government spending measure.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, both signaled on Monday they will not vote to block a short-term government spending bill, even though Democrats plan to later strip it of a GOP provision that would defund Obamacare.

The move by McConnell and Cornyn all but guarantees that the Democratically controlled Senate will pass a short-term government funding bill this week that leaves the health care law intact.

Reid has scheduled a vote to proceed to the resolution on Wednesday that will require 60 votes for passage.

A McConnell aide explained the minority leader's reasoning, saying McConnell will vote in favor of proceeding to the debate and will later vote against an amendment to take out the defunding provision that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is likely to introduce.

"If and when the Majority Leader goes down that path, Washington Democrats will have to decide — without hiding behind a procedural vote — whether or not to split with their leadership and join Republicans and their constituents in opposing the re-insertion of Obamacare funding into the House-passed bill," McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.

A group of Republicans headed by Sens. Mike Lee, of Utah and Ted Cruz, of Texas, have pledged to vote against moving to debate the resolution because of Reid's plan to strip out the defunding provision.

"Voting…to end debate on the bill allows Reid to gut the House bill and strip the defunding language," a Lee aide told the Washington Examiner. "Any Republican who truly opposes Obamacare should oppose cloture."

Lee's group will likely fall far short of the 41 votes that would be needed to mount a filibuster, in part because Republicans fear the politically disastrous effects of a government shutdown.

McConnell and Cornyn are both up for reelection next year and McConnell is facing a formidable Republican primary challenger as well as a tough Democratic opponent.

With Republicans unwilling to block the spending resolution, Reid will be able pass the amendment stripping out the Obamacare defunding language with just 51 votes.

Republicans are hoping public opposition to the law will sway red-state Democrats including Mark Pryor, of Arkansas, Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, and Mark Begich, of Alaska, who are up for re-election next year, to vote against the amendment and deprive Reid of the 51 votes needed to pass it. Democrats control 55 votes.

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