Senate advances stopgap spending bill, Cruz talkathon ends

Sept. 25, 2013 at 9:59 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- The Senate voted 100-0 Wednesday to advance a House-passed stopgap spending bill after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ended his 21-hour tirade against Obamacare.

The unanimous vote was on a motion to move forward on consideration of the continuing resolution that would fund the federal government from the end of the current fiscal year at the end of September to mid-December and defund the healthcare reform law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized Cruz for "a big waste of time" and said he would move to strip language eliminating funding of the Affordable Care Act from the bill.

After the vote, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration would not negotiate with House Republicans on the spending measure because "we don't have a lot of time" and "instead of taking the road of like seriousness and compromise, House Republicans decided to ... embrace a CR that was a dead-on-arrival, ideologically driven exercise."

"So we're at a point now where Congress needs to do the right thing and simply make sure that we pass a CR -- that they pass a CR that allows the government to continue to function," Carney said.

Carney said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was to meet with House Democrats Wednesday night to talk about the budget bill and deliver the message to both parties that "Congress needs to act responsibly and fulfill its obligation to ensure that there is not an unnecessary wound inflicted on the economy while we're continuing to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression."

Cruz' verbal marathon drew praise from the conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth, USA Today reported.

"Americans owe Sen. Ted Cruz a debt of gratitude for standing on principle in the fight to stop 'Obamacare,'" the group's president, Chris Chocola, said. "The Washington elite is in complete denial, but here are the facts: Obamacare is a disaster, it is one of the biggest assaults on individual liberty in history, it is stifling economic growth, and it will not work."

After the Senate vote to proceed, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., pointed out on the Senate floor Republicans needed five Democrats to join them to bottle up provisions of the healthcare reform act and 13 for a veto-proof majority. "That's not likely to happen," he said, pointing out that "shutting down the federal government won't stop Obamacare" since most of the spending for healthcare is mandated.

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, had joined Cruz in urging the Senate to stop Reid from moving to eliminate the language defunding Obamacare from the legislation.

Cruz began his talkathon against the Affordable Care Act Tuesday afternoon with oratory that included bedtime stories for his daughters.

The freshman senator pledged to speak against including any funds for healthcare reform in any measure to keep the government operating after the end of the fiscal year Monday "until I am no longer able to stand," The Washington Post reported.

Lee spelled Cruz around midnight and Rubio gave Cruz a break at dawn. While Cruz could yield to colleagues he could not leave the floor or sit.

But Cruz -- who compared his fight to history's efforts by those who stood against the Nazis and those who started the American Revolution -- lacks support from senior lawmakers in his own party, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas.

Senate Democratic leaders are poised to counter last week's House vote by excising the defunding provision from the stopgap measure and shipping their version to the House with little time for Republicans to change it -- which is why senior Senate Republicans pushed Cruz to give up his stalling tactics and let the Senate take its final votes as soon as possible.

By 5 a.m. Wednesday, the Cruz discussion passed the filibuster delivered by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in March. In 1964, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., delivered a filibuster that lasted about 14 hours. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., delivered the longest filibuster in history when he spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Cruz's topics were varied: song lyrics by country music star Toby Keith; excerpts from Ayn Rand "Atlas Shrugged," a favorite among libertarians; observations about the Denny's, Benihana and White Castle restaurants and the reading of bedtime stories to his two daughters he said were at his Texas home watching television with his wife.

As time marched on, Cruz began leaning more on the podium at his desk, the Post said. As a reminder of his purpose, a message of a sticky note reminded him: "Yield only for the purpose of a question. Be careful!"

Cruz, just nine months into office, hoisted the banner for conservatives by adopting an unyielding approach in confronting the president over ACA funding, even if it means a government shutdown. The move, however, has angered senior Republicans, who say Cruz and others who adopt this take-no-prisoners strategy fail to understand what happened to the GOP during shutdown battles with President Bill Clinton in the 1990s when Republicans controlled the House and Senate.

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