You know something must be wrong when a U.S. senator threatens to filibuster the bill he supports to win. That's exactly what Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, proposes to do to block implementation of Obamacare.
Cruz has been barnstorming the country to put the fear of God in his fellow Republicans to make one last stand to block the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature first-term achievement, before it goes fully into effect.
The vehicle for this derailment of a three-year-old law, which has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, is something called a Continuing Resolution, essentially a catch-all funding bill that will allow the federal government to continue to operate when its new fiscal year begins October 1.
Last week, the GOP-controlled House muscled through a Continuing Resolution that would defund Obamacare. Senate Democrats, who control the upper chamber, scoffed at the idea and plan simply to amend the House-passed Continuing Resolution by deleting the Obamacare defunding provision. No problem, you say, since Democrats hold 54 seats and the amendment only requires 51 votes to pass.
Here is where Senate procedures come into play. Senators reserve the right to filibuster. A filibuster can be halted by a cloture vote, which requires 60 votes. Cruz is gambling he can round up 41 of the 45 Senate Republicans to join him in blocking cloture. He believes Senate Democrats will have little choice but to yield and ultimately agree to the House-passed Continuing Resolution.
The iron in Cruz' strategy is concern by Republicans they could face Tea Party primary opponents in 2014 or later if they don't reprise General Custer's platoon to battle Obamacare and the political odds at the Capitol Hill version of Little Bighorn.
The flaw in this plan is that Senate Democrats may let the government shut down, then point to Cruz as the culprit. His fellow Republicans, even the ones who went along, might be glad to join in the pointing, saying whatever harm results from a government shutdown is all Cruz' fault.
Then there is the issue of a presidential veto. Obama isn't likely to surrender Obamacare in a fight over the Continuing Resolution. He has spent weeks saying he won't negotiate over keeping the doors of government open. Obama also has sought out business leaders to warn about the damage to a still fragile economic recovery that a government shutdown could cause. Some economists have chimed in their agreement that the last thing the economy needs right now is another round of political chicken on the federal budget.
Even if Senate Democrats — or other Senate Republicans — defeat the Cruz filibuster, there is still the question of what the House will do if the Continuing Resolution returns with funding intact for Obamacare. The thrill ride just keeps on going.
While this week's Cruz cage fight will capture attention, not far off is another Waterloo moment when the United States is expected to bump against its current debt ceiling. Whether or not the federal government is operating by then, some Republicans have argued threatening a government default on its obligations is another flex point to block Obamacare.