WASHINGTON - With their effort to block money to run the government until President Obama guts the new healthcare law starting to fizzle, Republican leaders are considering Plan B.
Senate Republicans are pushing renegade Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to wrap up his filibuster-like obstruction of the government funding bill sooner rather than later. Top Republicans want to get the legislation back to the House in time to give Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) an opportunity to attach new healthcare repeal amendments that might have a better chance at achieving GOP policy goals.
But time is not on their side. Money to keep routine government services open runs out Oct. 1, and Cruz has vowed to slow-walk the legislation, using every parliamentary tool at his disposal, in the right flank's quest to undo the Affordable Care Act.
Wednesday is the first of several procedural votes, a process that could stretch through the weekend as Cruz tries to block Senate Democrats, who have the majority, from stripping the provisions defunding the healthcare law. Boehner would have just hours before facing a government shutdown.
"My own view is it would be to the advantage of our colleagues in the House, who are in the majority, to shorten the process," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has distanced himself from Cruz's strategy. "If the House doesn't get what we send over there until Monday, they're in a pretty tough spot."
After Republican senators convened for back-to-back closed-door strategy sessions Tuesday, many, if not most, embraced the emerging plan.
"It'd be a good place for us to let House Republicans weigh in on this again," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who said the senators had a "good-hearted" discussion. "Delaying the opportunity for the House to send something back, it seems, plays right into the hands of Senate Democrats."
Republicans in both the House and Senate believe a do-over in the House could have better results, especially if they attach a healthcare provision that would be difficult for Democrats to oppose.
Among the items Republicans are considering are a repeal of the medical device excise tax, which is a part of the healthcare law some Democrats have opposed, or a delay of the individual mandate that all Americans carry health insurance in 2014.
"It seems to some of us the sooner you get it over to the House, the sooner they can address it," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said.
Cruz, though, has shown few signs of pivoting to the new course, especially as tea party groups urge him to stand firm.
Even as Plan B emerged, it remained a work in progress.
"This is merely a disagreement over tactics, and I think you're beginning to see how the decisions made on tactics are starting to play out," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican, who has also distanced himself from Cruz's approach. "Sometimes they have unintended consequences."