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Cruz pushes plan to block vote on bill defunding ObamaCare

 

Sen. Ted Cruz is urging his Republican colleagues to block an anticipated procedural vote on a bill that keeps the government open through mid-December while cutting funding from ObamaCare.

The Texas senator, who backed the stopgap measure passed by the GOP-controlled House on Friday, said the vote-blocking strategy is necessary to prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from using "procedural gimmicks" to restore funding for the health care law.

“If Reid pursues this plan — if he insists on using a 50-vote threshold to fund ObamaCare with a partisan vote of only Democrats — then I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add ObamaCare funding back in," Cruz said in a statement.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, suggested Friday that if the Senate approves a cloture motion to end debate on the House bill, Reid could then return with an amendment to eliminate the ObamaCare defunding language from the bill.

“If we want to prevent [Reid] from stripping out the defund language, the strategy on our part would be to block cloture to end debate,” Lee spokesman Brian Phillips told The Hill.

Cruz, one of the most vocal supporters of the “de-fund ObamaCare” push, startled his House colleagues when he released a written statement Wednesday afternoon that appeared to acknowledge the bill will probably fail in the Senate.

He backtracked Thursday, vowing to do "everything and anything possible to defund ObamaCare," including mounting a filibuster.

Cruz and Lee played prominent roles, each appearing in television ads aimed at pressuring Republican lawmakers not to yield. "Republicans in Congress can stop ObamaCare if they simply refuse to fund it," Lee said in one Senate Conservatives Fund-funded commercial.

Current funding for the government is set to expire at the end of the month, and lawmakers must approve the stopgap bill in order to keep Washington open.

Friday's vote in the House was almost completely along party lines and largely expected. The GOP measure would fund the government through Dec. 15, at current funding levels.

The Obama administration threatened in advance to veto the bill if it should pass the Senate as well. Among Democrats, only Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah supported the measure. Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell was the only Republican voting against it.

“Today, the constitutional conservatives in the House are keeping their word to our constituents and our nation to stand true to our principles, to protect them from the most unpopular law ever passed in the history of the country-  ObamaCare- that intrudes on their privacy and our most sacred right as Americans to be left alone,” Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said on the House floor.

The vote sets the stage for a showdown next week in the Democratic-led Senate. Realistically, the chance of the measure surviving a Senate vote is slim to none. Reid has already announced the bill dead on arrival and called Friday’s vote a “waste of time.”

"Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown,” Reid said in a statement following the vote. “I have said it before but it seems to bear repeating: the Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare.”

The Senate is in recess until Tuesday.

At a noon rally on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner said the House vote speaks to the popularity of ObamaCare.

“You've got businesses all over the country who are not hiring because of the impact of this law,” he said. “You've got other businesses who are reducing the hours for their employees because of this law. And so, our message to the United States Senate is real simple: the American people don't want to the government shut down and they don't want ObamaCare.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.