Sen. David Vitter, R-La., says proponents of defunding Obamacare may have lost the votes in the U.S. Senate Friday, but they made great progress in highlighting the problems of the soon-to-be-implemented law.
The senator, who argues that members of Congress should not be given special Obamacare exemptions and subsidies, also explained what other terms would be acceptable in a continuing resolution and how fractured the Senate GOP conference is right now.
On Friday, 54 Democrats were joined by 25 Republicans in moving forward a House bill to fund the government while defunding Obamacare. Democrats immediately then voted to restore Obamacare funding.
Sixty votes were needed on that motion to invoke cloture. Vitter and 18 other Republicans opposed the move, knowing Democrats would then need just 51 votes to approve an amendment blocking the defunding provision. All 54 Democrats approved the amendment and the same members then passed the whole bill.
The votes followed just days after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, held the Senate floor for 21 straight hours to speak against Obamacare and demand it be defunded.
Many Democrats, most members of the media and even several Republicans considered the Cruz speech a waste of time because, they argue, Obamacare defunding could never succeed in the U.S. Senate.
Vitter strongly disagrees.
"First of all, it called a lot more attention to this issue and Obamacare's implementation and the importance of the Oct. 1 date," said Vitter as the cloture vote began. "The proof of the fact that it caused a lot more attention and debate about that is the cloture vote on the Senate floor. I expect Harry Reid will win, but I think there'll be a lot more 'no's than there would have been before Ted went to the Senate floor."
The 19 "no" votes were noticeably more than the dozen members who backed defunding at the outset of the debate. Still, the effort fell 22 votes short of blocking cloture.
The past several days also exposed a divide within the GOP conference that bubbled up on multiple occasions. Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; John McCain, R-Ariz.: Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., took the most public shots at Cruz and no members of leadership backed the strategy, either. They argued that Republicans should simply try to pass the House bill that defunded Obamacare and try to win five Democrats to their side to keep the provision in place.
So how fractured is the GOP delegation?
"There's always been a divide among establishment Republicans and bolder conservatives, so that's nothing new. This is a pretty clear example of that," Vitter told WND. "Hopefully, we're going to get beyond that divide. The House is not going to just swallow and accept a so-called 'clean spending bill.' I think they're going to send something back. I think the best thing they could send back is our 'no Washington exemption' language with either a one-year delay of all of Obamacare or of the individual mandate."
Vitter is the leading voice behind the effort to strip lawmakers and their staffers of special Obamacare exemptions and subsidies. The law forbids such special treatment, but the Obama administration approved them in early August. Vitter attempted to attach an amendment to remove those exemptions to the continuing resolution but was denied by the Democrats.
"I was blocked out of any vote, just as I was blocked out of any vote on this important issue for two weeks on the energy efficiency bill by Harry Reid, the majority leader," Vitter said. "He and his group desperately want to prevent a vote on this because they know they're in the wrong and because they know the American people are incensed over this issue. I'll keep fighting for a vote, and I'll get a vote eventually because I'm going to keep fighting for one until that happens."