Perhaps the federal government won't shut down after all. The Senate ended Ted Cruz's attempted filibuster Friday when it voted to end debate on the budget, clearing the bill to be sent back to the House for a vote. The Senate voted 79-19 to move forward on the bill. Twenty-five Republicans joined all the Democrats; 19 Republicans opposed the measure. In a move that's sure to provoke House conservatives, the Senate also voted 54-44 to strip out language from the budget that aimed to defund Obamacare.
"This vote is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah promised.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid replied that the vote was “the first step toward wresting control from the extremists.”
This has been a whirlwind week for our upper chamber: we watched the Republican party split over Ted Cruz's attempt to filibuster the government into a shutdown, and then heard him read from Green Eggs and Ham. From the Senate Floor. And then, in another visit to our elementary school days, there was some name-calling: Cruz was said to have the "dumbest idea," a total "box canyon."
Of course, the battle's only half over. Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has already indicated that there's no way House GOP will approve the bill in its current state.
Some Republicans say House GOP leadership is considering amending the Senate bill to at least eliminate health insurance subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs, calling the plan "an arrow in the quiver." (The strategy is that Democrats will be forced into voting for the amendment to pass the bill, or else risk a government shutdown.)
Whatever bill the House manages to pass over the weekend, however, would only have one day to get Senate approval when it comes back into session on Monday.
This means the battle will be kicked a few weeks down the road. The next major bargaining chip the Republicans have to stall Obamacare is the vote to raise the debt ceiling, which must happen before October 17. Senate GOP members are confident that they'll be able to score more concessions from President Barack Obama ahead of that vote.
Obama, meanwhile, is working to shift public opinion on the law. On Thursday, he visited Prince George's Community College and told students that the law is "here to stay."
"The fact is the Republicans' biggest fear at this point is not that the Affordable Care Act will fail," he said. "What they're worried about is it's going to succeed."
But the back and forth over how to best defund Obamacare has gotten so bad that even the New York Times story can't keep a straight face. "Barring any unforeseen twists, which can never be ruled out on Capitol Hill," the Times reports, the Senate's vote this afternoon "will set up a game of legislative Ping-Pong that will tip the government perilously close to shutting down on Tuesday."
Remember those calls for a bipartisan end to the filibuster? Maybe the Senate should carve out some time to consider that possibility after they swerve at the last moment to avoid catastrophe. Or if they insist on the elementary school approach, maybe they should consider this classic: