230–189: House Passes Resolution to Defund Obamacare, Throws Party

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 20 2013 12:32 PM

230–189: House Passes Resolution to Defund Obamacare, Throws Party

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Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy whipped it good. Or bad, depending on your opinion of the reigning Republican strategy.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

As expected, the Republican-run House of Representives voted solidly to pass a resolution that funds the government but defunds Obamacare. Next on the agenda: Democratic senators pick up the resolution, amend it to remove the Obamacare bit, and dare Republicans to filibuster it. Capitol Hill reporters aren't taking the gambit terribly seriously, but after the vote we filed in to a war-whooping Republican celebration just off the floor of the House. Standing behind a podium, marked by the new Twitter hashtag #SenateMustAct (it will, just not how they like), Republican leaders goaded the press about how they'd cover all this and goaded Democratic senators about their next votes.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"It wasn't just a group of Republicans," said Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, "but it was a bipartisan vote. Let me state that again, because I want make sure you write it correctly." His colleagues, who have becomes experts at forcing McCarthy to whip a conservative bill instead of a compromise that can pass, laughed and applauded. "It was a bipartisan vote!"

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Majority Leader Eric Cantor was tasked with calling out Democrats. "I want to know where Sen. [Mark] Pryor stands on protecting the middle class!" he said. "How about Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina? Does she understand the consequences that Obamacare is having in her state?"

"Nooooooo," said Republicans.

The whole spiel emphasized the three-card Monte nature of this strategy. Let's say every Democratic senator up for re-election in a red state votes against the amendment to kill the "defunding" part of the CR—Begich, Hagan, Landrieu, Pryor. Given that all of them voted to create Obamacare in the first place, how does this inure them from Republican ads? It probably actually ramps up the attacks, transforming the senators from liberals to flip-floppers, easily ridiculed by opponents who never voted for Obamacare.

Republicans filed out quickly after the rally, hurrying to the next round of votes. I asked a few of them what they wanted the Senate to do—filibuster the motion to proceed?—and why Democrats would even consider voting for this CR.

"I'm an eternal optimist!" said Florida Rep. Trey Radel.

UPDATE: On McCarthy's insistence that the vote was "bipartisan," let the record show that only two Democrats voted for the CR: Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre. Both were gerrymandered into Republican districts last year, and both survived by some of 2012's smallest margins. By comparison, 22 Democrats voted for the (also doomed) July bill that would have delayed the mandate for a year.

Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell, one of the party's few class of 2010 moderates, voted "no" because the CR did not replace the sequestration cuts or plus up funds. So if we want to play the game, opposition was "bipartisan" too.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.