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How ObamaCare victory is a loss for Tea Party

Sen. Ted Cruz R-Texas center speaks news conference with conservative Congressional Republicans who persuaded House leadership include defunding Affordable Care

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, center, speaks at a news conference with conservative Congressional Republicans who persuaded the House leadership to include defunding the Affordable Care Act legislation to prevent a government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. From left are Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Updated: October 21, 2013 2:26PM

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made a brilliant move on Thursday: He’s forcing Senate Republicans to put up or shut up when it comes to defunding ObamaCare. Boehner’s House Republicans on Friday are expected to strip ObamaCare funding from a resolution to keep government running after Sept. 30. In the odd way practical politics work, the Obama White House has no problem with Boehner’s move and sees it as potentially helpful in averting a shutdown.

“We’ll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow,” Boehner said Thursday of the upcoming vote, highly anticipated by the Tea Party wing of the GOP party.

That victory, he did not mention, will come with GOP votes. What Boehner said next is telling: “Then this fight will move over to the Senate where it belongs. I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle.”

Boehner added, “Look, I’m not going to speculate on what the Senate’s going to do or not do. But the fight here has been won. The fight over there is just beginning.”

Congress is hurtling toward a new fiscal year on Oct. 1 with no fiscal 2014 budget in place. The federal government can keep operating — at current spending levels — if the House and Senate pass what is called a “Continuing Appropriations Resolution,” or as it is nicknamed around here, a “CR.”

The glitch is that Republicans are trying again — as they have some 40 times — to defang ObamaCare, President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. It so happens that a major element of the Affordable Care Act — the operation of insurance exchanges — opens for enrollment on Oct. 1. So a lot of spotlights are shining on ObamaCare now.

But it is the law of the land; the Supreme Court settled that question. And Obama won re-election in 2012, with the passing of his health care law one of his legacy achievements.

Boehner could have put another try to dismantle ObamaCare off until another day. He chose not to in order to satisfy his Tea Party faction, even as they are wearing out their welcome with some GOP colleagues who — while not crazy about ObamaCare — at the same time do not even want to flirt with a government shutdown.

But Boehner did what he did and the House will approve a CR with the ObamaCare defunding even though it has no chance of passing the Senate, controlled by Democrats. On Thursday, the White House went to the trouble of issuing a veto threat, even though there is no way Obama would ever be presented with a bill stripping out ObamaCare funding.

Just to make the record, the White House said Obama would veto that CR because it “advances a narrow ideological agenda that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle class.”

So why am I calling Boehner brilliant? Because the GOP Tea Party senators — most notable at the moment Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — cannot deliver on their bluster to use the CR to defund ObamaCare.

Cruz crowed on Thursday: “This is a moment for Republicans to unite, for every Senate Republican to stand shoulder to shoulder with the gentlemen here and the Republicans in the House who have been courageous doing the right thing.”

For all of Cruz’s big talk, what he has to do now is deliver votes to pass a CR out of the Senate with ObamaCare. No one I’ve talked to sees how Cruz can get enough votes. So he’s just, as I think they say in Texas, all hat and no cattle.

As Sen. Dick Durbin said from the Senate floor on Thursday, Republicans have been “guided by a few members over there who are of a certain political faith that I can’t even describe who believer that chaos is the best thing. I don’t.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told CNN, “When Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Mike Lee fail in the Senate next week, maybe finally we Republicans will have ended their influence,” King said. “We as House Republicans should stop letting Ted Cruz set our agenda for us,” King said. “If he can deliver on this, fine. If he can’t, he should keep quiet from now on and we shouldn’t listen to him.”

Boehner’s strategy is brilliant because once Cruz et al. fail, the Tea Party influence will wane and Boehner can start to forge a compromise with the Democrats.


Twitter: @lynnsweet

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