WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., went on the warpath against tea-party Republicans Monday, blasting them as “extreme,” “fanatics,” “anarchists” and living in a “partisan bubble” just as the Senate opened its session Monday and prepared to consider the House government-funding resolution, which strips funding from Obamacare and its exchanges.
Just minutes into the session, Reid asked for consent to proceed with judicial candidate confirmations. But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, quickly interjected, refusing to grant consent.
Then Reid began furiously tearing into Republican lawmakers, warning that no defunding of Obamacare will ever happen while Barack Obama is president and he is majority leader.
"Mr. President, inside the House Republican bubble, the crowd cheered a plan to deny health insurance to tens of millions of Americans. Outside the House Republican bubble, reaction was altogether different," Reid insisted, even though polls show most Americans disapprove of Obamacare.
The majority leader mocked the plan as outside the mainstream and dividing even Republicans, even though 227 GOP members in the House voted for the bill, with just one voting against it.
"The radical tea-party plan to shut down the government – unless Democrats are ready to deny funding to Obamacare, passed by the House of Representatives on Friday – has been called the dumbest idea ever by one Republican senator," he said. It has been called a 'box canyon,' a 'morass' from which the 'Republicans will not escape unscathed,' by a second Republican senator. It has been called 'dishonest' by one Republican senator, and a 'suicide note by another Republican senator."
Even while attempting to portray himself as the voice of reason, Reid appeared unwilling to negotiate.
"So, Mr. President, the reviews are in and they're universal. The ransom demanded by Republicans is unworkable and unrealistic," he said. "President Obama has been clear, and I've been clear. Any bill that defunds [Obamacare] is dead on arrival in the Senate. The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for four years now. Democrats are willing to work with reasonable Republicans to improve this law, but we will now understand that there is an anarchy movement that's afoot."
His rhetoric only grew more heated as he went on.
"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," he said. "And we will not bow to tea-party anarchists in the House or in the Senate who ignore the fact that President Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected a few months ago."
Reid, clearly irritated, also asked, "Are Republicans so intent on undermining President Obama and the signature health care law that they’re willing to inflict severe damage to our economy in the process? If Democrats don’t bow to every demand they have, we’re going to go right over the cliff ... Americans will know exactly who to blame – Republican fanatics in the House and Senate.”
He urged establishment Republicans to break from their colleagues' attempt to defund Obamacare by characterizing them as "reasonable."
"I see more of my moderate Republican colleagues stepping up to speak sense to an extremist element of their own party,” Reid said. “A few reasonable Republicans are wise enough to know that risking the nation’s economic recovery for the sake of a Pyrrhic ideological victory would be another step toward a death knell for the Republican Party.
“I say to the House and Senate Republicans who continue to deny reality ... listen to the chorus all around you. Listen to what they’re saying,” he said. “Your conservative Senate colleagues urge you off this reckless course. ... What remains to be seen is whether my Republican colleagues on both sides of the Capitol are wise enough to listen.”
GOP Senate strategy: Make Harry Reid decide
Reid's outburst could be due to the GOP's strategy to put him in the crosshairs.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, outlined that strategy Monday to WND: Put the fate of Obamacare in Reid's hands, forcing him to make the crucial decision to either go along with the Republican plan to defund Obamacare or take the blame for shutting down the government.
"Now the ball is in Reid's court. He'll either pass the House bill or threaten shutting down the government," Lee told WND, referring to the bill the House passed Friday funding all government functions except Obamacare.
As Lee outlined to WND in July, the idea is to make Reid face a difficult decision.
"I think it would be hard for him to explain to the American people why he would be willing to shut down the government simply to defend, doggedly, this very unpopular and unfair law that’s going to make health care more expensive in America."
Democrats claim it is the GOP threatening to shut down the government, but on Monday, Lee told WND that is precisely backward.
"The only party that has acted to avoid a government shut down has been the Republican Party," he said. "The Senate has done nothing to prevent a last-minute crisis. It is time for Harry Reid and the Senate to act."
Lee also told WND ordinary Americans can play a key role in stopping Obamacare and pointed out how they are the ones who got the bill this far, by pressuring House leaders to bring it to the floor for a vote.
"It has been the voices of the American people that pushed the House to do the right thing," he said. "It will be their voices that force the Senate to act. We need people out talking about this effort in their communities and with their neighbors."
Lee and Cruz have been harnessing the power of public opinion to persuade lawmakers with an online petition drive to defund Obamacare called "Don't Fund It!"
As of Monday, the petition has amassed more than 1.5 million signatures.
WND asked Lee why he has said it is particularly important for voters in red states to contact their Democratic senators.
"I am confident that there are some Democrats who will eventually side with us and protect the American people from Obamacare," Lee observed, but, "[T]hey need to hear from their constituents. "
"With your help we can win," Lee insisted.
Lee's cohort, Cruz, said there is another key to the strategy: Keeping the GOP unified.
“If Senate Republicans stand together, we can stop Harry Reid,” the Texan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Cruz also detailed their procedural strategy in the Senate, suggesting Republicans could use a filibuster to stop Democrats from killing the House bill, before the Oct. 1 deadline.
Reid may try to avoid a filibuster via cloture, which can block debate with only 50 votes.
But Cruz told Fox that would still put the onus on Democrats because, “A vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare.”
To filibuster, Cruz would need to get 41 votes to stop a 60-vote super majority.
There are 46 Republicans in the Senate, but not all of them are on board with the attempt to defund Obamacare. Some may prefer to see the health-care law go into effect, hoping it will be such a disaster that Democrats will get the full blame and the GOP will reap the benefits in upcoming elections.
Cruz said he expects the Senate, if it votes down the House plan, would send it back to leaders of the Republican-controlled chamber, with the deadline for a temporary spending bill just eight days away.