Republican Sen. Rand Paul electrified many in his party last March when he staged an old-fashioned talking filibuster against U.S. drone policy. It wasn't so much Paul's position that excited Republicans — many approve the use of drones to kill al Qaeda terrorists in foreign lands — but the fact that Paul took such a high-profile stand to explore the limits of Barack Obama's presidential powers.
Paul was joined by fellow GOP lawmakers Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and others. Together, their actions energized Republicans who were still deeply distressed over the results of the 2012 elections.
Now the same group of Republicans has been pushing a plan to defund Obamacare. But this time House GOP lawmakers, who are on the eve of passing a continuing resolution that would fund the government but cut off money for Obamacare, are unhappy that Cruz appears to have admitted defeat before the Senate battle has even begun. "Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution," Cruz said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "And right now he likely has the votes to do so."
Of course Reid, with 54 Democrats in the Senate, does indeed have the votes to defeat the defunding measure. That's been known all along. So what do House Republicans want Cruz to do? For starters, they'd like to see Cruz, along with Paul, Rubio, and Lee, launch another stand-on-the-Senate-floor filibuster. The hope is that it might inspire Republicans the same way the March filibuster did, and perhaps start a wave of public opinion in support of defunding. Not reading anyone's mind, but my guess is most House GOP lawmakers who will vote for defunding don't really believe that will happen. But they want to see Cruz and his Senate colleagues make a big gesture, even in defeat, to back up their words.
Early Thursday afternoon, Cruz appeared at a news conference with some House and Senate Republicans and was asked if he would be willing to launch a filibuster to defund Obamacare. "I will do everything necessary and anything possible," Cruz said. Asked specifically if that included a filibuster, Cruz said yes.
It's important to note, though, that Republicans do not have the numbers to sustain a filibuster in the Senate when it comes to defunding Obamacare. Forty-one votes are required to stop legislation. Republicans have 46, but many of them — far more than six — have said they would not support a defunding filibuster. So when Cruz and his colleagues talk about a filibuster, they likely mean the old-fashioned kind — a long, high-profile talkathon against Obamacare — and not the actual 41-votes kind.