By CNN’s Dana Bash and Bryan Koenig
(CNN) — Sen. Ted Cruz’s message to his fellow Republicans as the potential government shutdown looms is clear: A cloture vote for the continuing resolution is a vote in favor of Obamacare.
In an interview with CNN, Cruz rejected the notion that his plan to pass a continuing resolution in the Senate that defunds Obamacare is doomed to failure. He called on Republicans to vote against cloture on the bill that would bring it to an up or down vote.
“Any senator who votes for cloture on this bill is voting to give Harry Reid the authority to fund Obamacare with just 51 votes,” Cruz said.
“I hope and believe Senate Republicans will stand united.”
The cloture opposition is an unusual one, given that it effectively keeps Republicans from voting on the very bill on which Cruz has staked virtually all his political capital.
According to Cruz, he asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to agree on a 60-vote requirement to pass the funding bill, which Reid refused. Reid instead is pushing for cloture, which would bring the bill to a final vote that requires only a simple majority.
The continuing resolution to fund the government needs to be passed by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown, a process made harried by Republicans attaching language to the bill that defunds President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Senate Democrats have said such a move is a nonstarter.
Cruz is becoming increasingly isolated among congressional Republicans, even after the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution last week on a party-line vote that did exactly what the Texas senator has called for. The House did so after spending several days last week bashing Cruz for being noncommittal on a defund vote, trying to take the onus off the Senate and placing it firmly with the House.
Responding to that backlash, Cruz has signaled he is prepared to filibuster any move by Senate Democrats to remove the defunding language. Most Senate Republicans would likely support such a filibuster, but it is looking like they won’t have the 40 votes necessary to keep Democrats from ending floor debate.
Chief among the Republican opponents of any filibuster is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said Monday that he will vote to end any expected filibusters of the government funding bill this week. It remains to be seen how the move will affect the tea party challenge McConnell is facing in his Kentucky re-election bid.
An aide to McConnell said the senator would vote against stripping out the defunding language.
Several other Republicans have also said they will vote the same way, making it apparent Democrats will be able to get the 60 votes needed to break the filibusters and then take out the defunding language.
Whatever the odds, Cruz is pushing on. He called votes in the Senate “fluid” and argued that a vote against cloture would be one in favor of the health care law, because it would end debate and allow for a party-line vote instead of a supermajority vote that Cruz prefers.
“I hope all 46 Senate Republicans stand united against cloture on this bill,” Cruz said.
“Voting for cloture is voting to cut off debate. What I’m saying is Republicans should say no, let’s not cut off debate until Harry Reid agrees not to use 51 votes to fund Obamacare. We should keep debating this. There’s nothing we have more important to do.”
— CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report