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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is not going to defund Obamacare, even with the filibuster he insists he will do on his own bill he conned the House into passing (yes, it's that convoluted). But his games could result in a government shutdown anyway. That's because there's very limited time for Congress to act, just seven days. Cruz's maneuvering could result in a shutdown, even though plenty of Republicans don't want to go there, just because so much time could be eaten up in process.
Now, the head Republican honcho in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, could be doing something about that, but he has been missing in action (other than to join Harry Reid in telling Speaker John Boehner that they didn't have any plan to bail him out). McConnell is stuck. He's got a majority of Republicans in his conference who think Cruz's crusade is stupid and destructive and want nothing to do with it. But he's also got 14 tea partiers, including his state's junior senator Rand Paul, pushing him to defund Obamacare and damn the consequences. More than those 14 senators, he's got problems at home in the form of a challenger to his reelection, Matt Bevin.
Having watched longtime Senate veterans and mainline GOP politicians fall to tea party challenges in primary races, McConnell, who regularly polls low in his home state, has to mind his right flank assiduously. He must keep Bevin at bay. That means not providing grassroots conservatives any reason to doubt his conservatism—and not alienating Rand Paul. And he has recently demonstrated his willingness to let his dog be wagged by the Paul/Bevin tail. When Obama was pushing Congress to authorize a limited strike against the Assad regime in Syria for its supposed use of chemical weapons, McConnell refused to voice an opinion, even as Boehner rallied behind Obama. After dithering for days—while Rand Paul was leading the charge against the possible attack—McConnell finally declared his opposition, with language that echoed Paul's critique. (What a coincidence.) And this week, McConnell vowed that GOPers would use the coming debt ceiling duel as "leverage" to extract spending concessions from Obama.
So McConnell has a choice here. He could be encouraging his conference to avoid the oncoming disaster for his party, voting with these Republicans to shut down Cruz et al. He could be, you know, leading and telling the crazies in the conference to stand down for the larger good of the party, if not the country. But it's his own political skin that Mitch is worried about here, not actually leading.
“Sen. McConnell supports the House Republicans’ bill and will not vote to block it, since it defunds Obamacare and funds the government without increasing spending by a penny. He will also vote against any amendment that attempts to add Obamacare funding back into the House Republicans’ bill,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for McConnell, R-Ky.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 11:38 AM PDT.