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Senate Moves Toward Test Vote on 'Obamacare'

Texas US Senator Ted Cruz Budget Battle Obamacare
C-SPAN/APTexas Sen. Ted Cruz
By ANDREW TAYLOR

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic-controlled Senate is on a path toward defeating tea party attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law, despite an overnight talkathon on the chamber's floor led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The freshman Cruz and other conservative Republicans were trying to delay a must-pass spending bill, but were virtually sure to lose a test vote on that legislation planned for later Wednesday.

Since Tuesday afternoon, Cruz -- with occasional remarks by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and other GOP conservatives -- have controlled the Senate floor and railed against Obamacare. By 5 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, Cruz and his allies had spoken for more than 14 hours, the eighth longest since precise record-keeping began in 1900.

That surpassed March's 12-hour, 52-minute speech by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., like Cruz a tea party lawmaker and potential 2016 presidential contender. Paul was demanding information on the Obama administration's use of drones to monitor Americans.

Republican leaders and several rank-and-file GOP lawmakers had opposed Cruz's time-consuming effort with the end of the fiscal year looming. They fear that Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans won't have enough time to respond to the Senate's eventual action.

The House-passed measure is required to prevent a government shutdown after midnight Monday and contains a tea party-backed provision to "defund" implementation of what's come to be known as "Obamacare." Cruz is opposed to moving ahead on it under debate terms choreographed by Democrats to defeat the Obamacare provision.

The mechanics of advancing the bill were overshadowed by Cruz's filibuster, which included a reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" to his daughters back home in Texas.

"When Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham and they did not like Obamacare either," Cruz said. "They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse. It is not working."

Cruz's effort doesn't have a chance to succeed, however, both because Senate rules are working against him and because many of his GOP colleagues think his quixotic effort combines poor strategy with political grandstanding at the expense of other Republicans. Some of Cruz's leading allies include organizations like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth that frequently give financial help to conservatives challenging more moderate Republicans in primaries.

At issue is a temporary spending bill required to keep the government fully open after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Hard-charging conservatives like Cruz see the measure as an opportunity to use a must-pass measure to try to derail Obama's signature health care law.

Under pressure from Cruz and tea party activists, House GOP leaders added the anti-Obamacare language to the funding measure despite fears it could spark a partial government shutdown that could hurt Republicans in the run-up to midterm elections next year -- just as GOP-driven government shutdowns in 1995-96 help revive the political fortunes of President Bill Clinton.

"I just don't believe anybody benefits from shutting the government down, and certainly Republicans don't," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We learned that in 1995."

Cruz took the floor at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday, vowing to speak until he's "no longer able to stand." He filled the time in a largely empty chamber, criticizing the law and comparing the fight to the battle against the Nazis. He talked about the Revolutionary War, the Washington ruling class and his Cuban-born father who worked as a cook.

Missing from the debate were top Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Cruz's home-state GOP colleague John Cornyn, both of whom say they will vote later this week to cut off debate on the funding bill. That "cloture" vote is crucial because it would allow top Senate Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada to kill the Obamacare provision on a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes often needed for victory in the Senate.

Democrats control the chamber with 54 votes.

"I think we'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill that we're in favor of," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "And invoking cloture on a bill that defunds Obamacare ... strikes me as a no-brainer."

If Cruz employs all of the delaying tactics at his disposal, the Senate might not vote to pass the measure until Sunday. But with the fiscal year set to expire at midnight Monday, McConnell warned that extended delays could hamper the GOP-controlled House's ability to send a pared-down measure back to the Senate in time to try to salvage some kind of victory, perhaps on a bipartisan proposal to eliminate a new Obamacare tax on medical devices.

The overnight debate included some diversions.

Lee discussed a childhood accident in which his foot was run over by a car driven by his father. Cruz recalled his first Christmas dinner with his future wife's vegetarian parents, which he described as "just like any other Christmas dinner except the entree never comes."

Despite his tenacity, it seemed Cruz would not surpass the longest Senate speech on record, a 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster by South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond against the civil rights act in 1957.

Senate rules required the chamber to have an initial vote on the spending bill by early Wednesday afternoon -- a roll call that would end Cruz's remarks short of the record.


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12 Comments

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Adele

The American people made a choice last November.
They voted for a second term for Barack Obama who signed the Affordable Health Care Act to provide health insurance to millions of Americans. They could have voted for Mitt Romney whose campaign was built on his pledge to repeal Obamacare. THEY DID NOT WHAT ABOUT ALL THIS DO THE PEE PARTIERS NOT UNDERESTAND? . IT IS A SIMPLE FACT.
NUTCAKES like CRUS say \"we should listen to the people\" That is correct.. Last November the people spoke loud and clearly.- Obamacare is the law and will remain in service to the American people who have needed this program for fifty years.
Give it up - Pee Party. grow up for once in your sordid lives and act like responsible human beings for a change.

September 28 2013 at 11:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adele

611Juniper

I wish the media would stop telling voters that elections are already far gone conclusions. Actually the Democratic Party\'s prospects in this election should be very bright.

They now have me, and an army of women like me, suddenly waking up, taking notice, marching, donating, and voting. As a result of this battle and their legislative longevity, they have really smart Party members in the Senate (not just Senator Davis but also Senators Van De Putte, Ellis, Watson, et al) who got lots of media exposure too. Fundraising won\'t be just in Texas ... it\'ll be across the US for them. My dream ticket is Davis (governor) - Van de Putte (lt. governor) - Ellis (attorney general) - Rep. Mike Villareal of San Antonio (Comptroller --- check his credentials for that job). The others (Senator Watson, Rep. Thompson & Farrar, etc) in the wings for Congressional seats or other key positions.

My above combo covers the major metro areas, gives everyone but white guys a reason to get to the polls, and puts forward a really talented, articulate, visionary group of folk.

And over in the Republican Party, you\'ll have ugly, expensive bloody battles for just about every statewide office. Remember too that Democrats and Independents can vote in the Republican Primary, help pick their opposition (remember what happened in the Missouri Senate race in 2012), and the run them into the ground in November 2014. Remember, you heard it here first DEMOCRATS PLEASE PULL UP YOUR SOCKS AND GO FOR IT.

September 28 2013 at 11:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hugh_geenormous

Cruz read green eggs and ham for you dopey libs. You dopey illiterate libs LOVE it when a grown up reads Dr. Seuss to you.

September 25 2013 at 4:57 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hugh_geenormous's comment
evansville16

oooh that is a real zinger there jo jo you got em real good....

September 25 2013 at 7:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

Obama isn't look too well these days. Lies catch up with you.

September 25 2013 at 2:14 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to betty_brock's comment
teapotparty11

YEP, WE KNOW ALL ABOUT THAT!!!! WE LIED OUR REAR ENDS OFF TO GET ELECTED AND NOW THE REPUBLICANS CAN'T GET RID OF US!!! TEA PARTY FOREVER, DUMP THE REPUBLICANS!

ANGLE/MOURDOCK 2016

September 25 2013 at 3:00 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
hugh_geenormous

Don't fear the shutdown

September 25 2013 at 7:35 AM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply
hugh_geenormous

We had a shutdown in November 1995, and another one in December 1995 that went 21days into 1996. The author only points out that clinton was reelected, but fails to include that bj clinton also signed workfare/welfare reform, the GOP gained two seats in 1996, and kept the house of reprentatives for the first time in decades and we had a balanced budget within three years.

September 25 2013 at 7:35 AM Report abuse -10 rate up rate down Reply
hugh_geenormous

The author's bias is showing.

September 25 2013 at 7:30 AM Report abuse -12 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to hugh_geenormous's comment
hugh_geenormous

Why, are you offering?

September 25 2013 at 12:11 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
hugh_geenormous

Spongebob's stupidity is showing

September 25 2013 at 12:14 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hugh_geenormous's comment
hugh_geenormous

Open wide

September 25 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down