(Politico) – It’s going to be a long week.
A pivotal period for the Senate got off to a nasty start on Monday, with Majority Leader Harry Reid ripping conservatives as “anarchists” and “fanatics” and Republican Ted Cruz initially blocking the Nevada Democrat from moving to consideration of noncontroversial nominees.
The exchange underscores the bad blood between Cruz and Reid and the high stakes countdown to an Oct. 1 government shutdown: Both want to keep the government open but the Texas freshman only wants to do so if the continuing resolution is preserved as passed by the House and does not fund Obamacare, while Reid seeks to keep President Barack Obama’s signature health care law fully funded. Anything less is “dead” in the Senate, Reid said.
“We’re not going to bow to tea party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law. We will not bow to tea party anarchists who refuse to accept that the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional,” Reid said in a blistering opening speech. “The simple fact remains: Obamacare is the law of the land and will remain the law of the land as long as Barack Obama is president of the United States and as long as I’m Senate majority leader.”
Reid moved on Monday to proceed to the House-passed spending bill, which defunds implementation dollars for Obamacare and funds the government at a $986 billion level through Dec. 15. Later this week the Senate will take procedural votes to open and close debate on the bill, which will be subject to a 60-vote threshold. If those votes are successful, Reid can then strip out the defunding component by a majority vote and send a clean CR to the House.
Cruz and Lee never want it to get to that point, requesting that Reid make the vote to strip out the Obamacare language at a 60-vote threshold. If that requests falls short as expected, the two leaders in the defund movement want Republicans to block further consideration of the bill to keep Reid from removing the Obamacare language.
“Until Reid guarantees a 60-vote threshold on all amendments, a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare. It would amount to giving the Democrats a green light to fund Obamacare with 51 votes,” Cruz wrote on Monday at RealClearPolitics in an op-ed titled “The Path to Victory.”
Reid said Cruz and Lee are promoting a “Thelma & Louise-style” tactic.
“If Democrats don’t bow to every demand they have, they want to go right over the cliff. We are not going to go with them,” Reid said.
After Reid wrapped up his fiery opener, he then tried to move to the consideration of nominees. Cruz blocked the request.
“I’m happy to discuss it with the majority leader. But at this point, yes, I object,” Cruz said.
Cruz dropped his objection minutes later after huddling with his aides and chatting privately with Reid. He refused to comment on the exchange when he left the chamber.