Sessions and Johnson were careful to express their respect for Lee, and also to stress that they agree on the overall goal of stopping Obamacare. But the fact is, Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to be increasingly talking past each other on the subject. One group says, "We can't win," while the other says, "We've got to try."
Now some Republicans are laying out the math. Stopping Obamacare funding would require a Republican filibuster. That would take 41 votes to uphold. There are 46 Republicans in the Senate. That means that if just six GOP lawmakers broke ranks and voted with Democrats to continue funding, the effort would fail.
Several Republicans have already voiced outright opposition to the defunding proposal. Sen. Tom Coburn called it "dishonest." Sen. Richard Burr called it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Sen. Roy Blunt said it "won't work." Sen. Saxby Chambliss said the same. So did Sen. Mike Johanns. Sen. Susan Collins said it's unrealistic. Sen. John McCain said it's not going to happen. Sen. Bob Corker called it a "silly effort."
That's eight who have chosen to speak out. None will vote for a Obamacare defunding measure that could lead to a shutdown. And if just those eight decline to support a defunding effort, it will fail. And remember, a total of 33 Republicans have declined to sign the Lee letter.
Faced with that reality, some Republicans are discussing a measure that would delay the arrival of Obamacare for a year, or at least delay the start of the individual mandate for a year (as President Obama did unilaterally with the employer mandate). In this scenario, a delay bill would be considered separately from a government funding bill, so there would be no shutdown threat.