GOP rebels back off in Senate showdown

Conservative Republican Senators abandoned an effort Monday night to force an arcane rules battle over the repeal of the Obama health law, as a high stakes Senate floor showdown fizzled, with GOP leaders pushing back against the tactics of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The maneuvering came as the Senate easily approved an amendment that would re-authorize the work of the Export-Import Bank; the vote was not close, 64-29 in favor of the bank.

The only vote against the Bank that was not a Republican came from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The Export-Import Bank had become a rallying cry for many conservatives in recent days, and was at the heart of the blistering attack by Cruz against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which Cruz accused McConnell of lying to him about plans to allow for a vote on the subject.

Cruz though had been unable to get enough to support to press a rules fight on the issue on Sunday, and then on Monday, Sen. Mike Lee opted against a further rules challenge on the Obama health law, instead endorsing the idea of using a different effort to repeal the health law.

"I believe the reconciliation option is a far superior strategy because it has the potential to pass both houses of Congress and reach the president’s desk - which has been my goal all along," Lee said in a statement.

Democrats said there was no need for flowery language, that Cruz and Lee had simply been defeated by GOP leaders.

Earlier in the day on Monday, outside conservative groups had labeled the Lee rules challenge a "bold move" - but it drew strong opposition from Republicans.

And when the moment came on the floor around 10:30 pm for Lee or Cruz to rise and pursue the rules challenge, they were silent.

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