In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Senate Sends Shutdown Fight Back To House GOP

Budget-battle--9
AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

The Senate legislation keeps the government funded at the current austerity level of $986.3 billion. It makes three changes to the House-passed bill: it includes funding for Obamacare; it strips out a provision to prioritize debt payments in the event of default; and it keeps the government funded until Nov. 15, rather than Dec. 15.

Reid set it up so Republicans didn't have to vote to fund Obamacare -- the cause that's animated the party's base. The first vote required 60 senators to end debate on a House-passed bill, and it passed 79 to 19. The second was to waive budget points of order, passed by a margin of 68 to 30. The third was to essentially replace the House CR with the Senate Democrats' version, passed by a vote of 54 to 44 along party lines. And then final passage.

What could have been a seamless process was marred by a quixotic push from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to shut down the government if Democrats didn't agree to defund the Affordable Care Act. Many Republicans recognized that was a fool's errand and didn't want to risk a shutdown over it. GOP divisions spilled out onto the Senate floor Thursday. But the two senators, backed by well-funded conservative groups, persisted and have brought the federal government to the brink of a shutdown.

"A lot of Republicans, they've been here a long time. They are beaten down," Cruz told Fox News on Thursday night. "They're scared that if we stand together on this and if a government shutdown results, that Republicans will be blamed and it's too politically risky."

Cruz and Lee have failed. And now Boehner faces the unenviable task, again, of getting his GOP members to agree to fund the government without attaching poison pills.

A wild card in the scenario is the fact that Congress will also need to lift the debt ceiling by Oct. 17 or risk an economically catastrophic debt default. That's an even tougher vote for House Republicans, and Boehner is dangling just about every conservative goodie imaginable before them in an attempt to stave off a shutdown now, and default later. It's not working so far -- the votes aren't there yet as many Republicans want to dispose of the continuing resolution before moving on to the debt ceiling.