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Ted Cruz fights Obamacare

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. claimed he would talk until he could no longer stand as a futile attempt to put an end to funding Obamacare.

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Surprise! Cruz votes with Democrats

Washington (CNN) — He spent more than 21 straight hours railing against any government funding for Obamacare. Then Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas joined the other 99 senators from both parties in voting Wednesday to move ahead on a spending plan expected to do just that.

The rare 100-0 vote on a procedural step means the spending measure that would avoid a partial government shutdown next week now can be amended by Senate Democrats to restore funding for President Barack Obama’s signature health care reforms, which had been eliminated last week by House Republicans.

Cruz led a group of tea party conservatives in trying to block Senate consideration of the spending legislation because Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear his caucus would remove the provision that defunded Obamacare.

However, Cruz came under strong criticism from fellow Republicans for that strategy, which called for GOP senators to filibuster the House measure that — in its original form — would defund programs under the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court last year.

Watch the CNN video

Fed up over Beltway shutdown battle

The confusion of Cruz’s strategy was apparent Wednesday when he voted with Democrats for the Senate to take up the measure less than two hours after his marathon speech against it that began Tuesday afternoon and continued overnight and through the morning.

An aide to Cruz told CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash that the senator always intended to allow formal consideration of the House measure, adding that Cruz would vote against it once Senate Democrats restored the Obamacare funding.

However, nothing in Cruz’s words or actions preceding the vote indicated that was his intention. Instead, he had urged his colleagues to unite against the spending plan, saying voting for it was tantamount to supporting Obamacare.

“Any senator who votes (to move forward with debate on the House measure) is voting to give Harry Reid the authority to fund Obamacare,” Cruz told Bash on Monday.

After Wednesday’s vote, Cruz told reporters that his long night sought to unite Republicans to block any funding for Obamacare.

“Coming into this debate we clearly were not united,” he said. “There were significant divisions in the conference. I hope those divisions dissolve; that we come together in party unity” with all 46 Republicans preventing a final vote on the spending plan once Democrats amend it to fund Obamacare.

Cruz and other tea party conservatives wanted to prevent the Senate from taking up the spending measure passed last week by the GOP-controlled House that makes continued government funding contingent on denying any money for Obamacare.

How this affects you

While his drawn-out floor speech did not constitute a filibuster, it was intended to rally opposition to the state goal of Senate Democrats to restore the Obamacare funding.

However, Cruz lacked support for his tactics from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other influential veterans including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee.

In the end, Cruz voted with them to open the spending plan to revisions by the Democratic-led chamber.

Reid called Cruz’s all-night speech a “waste of time” as the nation faced a possible partial shutdown of the government if Congress fails to authorize government spending beyond Monday, when the current fiscal year ends.

To Reid, the tactic reflected a perspective that a “bad day for government” amounted to a “good day” for tea party conservatives.

Earlier Wednesday, Corker told CNN that a better idea would be to get the bill back to the House as soon as possible so the Republican majority there can offer a compromise.

“House members are already talking about how they might respond if the defunding component ends up being stripped out,” Corker said, adding he hoped that the Senate would “give the House some time to respond in a thoughtful way.”

With Obamacare markets for the uninsured set to open on October 1, which also begins the new fiscal year, GOP opponents consider this their last best chance to undermine or amend the health care reforms.

A possible GOP counter-proposal floated by Corker would delay its full implementation for a year. He noted that Obama already postponed another component affecting business implementation of health care reforms for a year.

Under the process planned by Reid, a final Senate vote on the revised spending plan would occur over the weekend to leave the House a day at most to reconsider it. However, Reid said Wednesday he wanted the Senate to complete its work on the measure as soon as possible.

Cruz, as he approached the conclusion of his overnight speech, thanked the Senate staff and others “who have endured this Bataan death march.”

When he began at 2:40 p.m. Tuesday, Cruz said he intended to “speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.”

He filled the ensuing hours with a blend of political rhetoric and emotional pleas for Republicans like Corker to unite in opposition to Obamacare.\

Darth Vader, Sean Connery, Chinese gooseberries and other highlights

Conservative colleagues including Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, David Vitter of Louisiana and James Inhofe of Oklahoma joined him at times to assume the main talking duties and allow Cruz to rest his vocal chords.

‘Green Eggs and Ham’ gets a reading

On Tuesday night, he read the Dr. Seuss children’s classic “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters.

As he reached 18 hours of holding the Senate floor on Wednesday morning, Cruz compared his anti-Obamacare effort to the “Star Wars” films.

Referring to having heard someone use the phrase “rebellion against oppression,” Cruz said those words “conjured up to me the rebel alliance fighting against the empire. The empire being the Washington, D.C., establishment.”

“And indeed immediately on hearing that phrase I wondered if at some point we would see a tall gentleman in a mechanical breathing apparatus come forward and say in a deep voice, ‘Mike Lee, I am your father.’ “

Cruz said his effort “is a fight to restore freedom to the people. This is a fight to get the Washington establishment, the empire, to listen to the people. And just like in the ‘Star Wars’ movies the empire will strike back. But at the end of the day I think the rebel alliance, I think the people will prevail.”

Later, he called for Senate Republicans to show the same courage as their party colleagues in the House in making a stand to defund Obamacare.

He alluded to the risks faced by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, noting they were mostly wealthy landowners who faced hanging for treason for their actions.

What’s Ted Cruz’s deal?

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Cruz was alone on the floor, except for the presiding officer, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.

Durbin and Cruz engaged in some hostile exchanges, with the Illinois Democrat accusing Cruz of trying to deny health care coverage for tens of millions of currently uninsured Americans while enjoying the benefits of a federal health care program.

Cruz responded that Obamacare was flawed and hurting the country, and the focus should be on a better solution instead of continuing on with a failed system.

What you need to know about the possible shutdown

Two sides battle it out on social media

Earlier, Cruz sought to define his battle as purely about principle, saying: “This fight is not about any member of this body. This fight is not about personalities.”

“Look, most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington,” he said. “Who cares? Almost all of us are in cheap suits with bad haircuts! Who cares?”

Supporters cheered him on through social media, and #StandWithCruz became one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter.

But supporters of the health care law made themselves heard as well. On Wednesday morning, the two sides were battling it out in the top trending topic in the United States: “Obamacare.”

5 strange things about debt ceiling politics

Key Republicans critical of Cruz strategy

Cruz also has been the target of criticism by some top Republicans.

GOP infighting over how best to prevent a government shutdown while defunding Obamacare escalated Tuesday as McConnell publicly dismissed Cruz’s more confrontational strategy.

Cruz’s GOP critics believe his strategy is politically suicidal, arguing there is no way to stop Obamacare as long as Democrats maintain control of the Senate and Obama is in the White House.

They believe that trying to do so by forcing a shutdown — or preventing an increase in the debt ceiling next month — will backfire by harming the economy and damaging the Republican brand.

What happens in a government shutdown

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the debt ceiling — which is the amount the federal government can borrow to pay its bills — must be raised by October 17 to prevent a possible default.

House Republicans say they will propose a package of measures that includes a one-year delay in full implementation of Obamacare to a proposal to extend the debt limit for a year.

However, the White House rejects negotiations on the issue, saying something as fundamental as ensuring the good credit of the United States must be above politics.

The last debt ceiling fight in Congress in 2011 caused the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and Obama and top Democrats warn playing politics with the issue now will cause economic harm amid the still fragile recovery.

Can it be stopped?

CNN’s Paul Courson, Virginia Nicolaidis, Ted Barrett and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.



Cruz’s defiant stand over after 21 hours

WASHINGTON — His hand forced by Senate rules, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ended a marathon speech Wednesday in opposition to the Affordable Care Act after holding the floor for more than 21 hours.

Cruz took the floor at 2:41 p.m. EDT on Tuesday vowing to speak “until I am no longer able to stand.” He did so throughout the night, with occasional assistance from colleagues, and into the morning. But in the end it was not fatigue but parliamentary procedure that ended the talk-fest, which technically was not a filibuster but ranks among the longest continuous speeches in the history of the Senate.

The freshman senator had entered the Senate chamber with just a binder, wearing black tennis shoes and not his usual “argument boots.” He placed his wristwatch on his desk to track the time. According to Senate rules, he drank only water, took no bathroom breaks and never sat down.

CruzBy Wednesday as he neared the conclusion of his remarks his tie was loosened and the area around his seat on the floor was littered with briefing papers and Post-it notes.

The stated purpose of Cruz’s gesture was to “make D.C. listen” to what he said was the public outcry against President Obama’s healthcare law. He is urging colleagues to vote no on a procedural motion likely to come before the Senate later this week that would end debate. That motion would allow votes on the House-passed spending bill that includes a provision to end funding for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate’s Democratic leaders have vowed to strip the funding provision.

For more on this LA Times story, click here.


Cruz: No green eggs. No ham. No Obamacare

WASHINGTON — He made it through all of Tuesday evening, overnight, and well into the morning Wednesday. And a full 17 hours after he began, Sen. Ted Cruz was still carrying on his anti-Obamacare effort from the Senate floor.

With more than a little help from friends who took turns speaking while he rested, Cruz showed no sign of stopping.

“How are ya doing?” asked fellow Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, taking the microphone.

“I am doing fabulous,” Cruz replied.

Cruz“I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand,” Cruz vowed Tuesday. “All across this country, Americans are suffering because of Obamacare. Obamacare isn’t working.”

At one point Tuesday, the Texas senator read the Dr. Seuss children’s classic “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters as the night wore on.

Supporters cheered him on through social media. #StandWithCruz became one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter.

But supporters of the health care law made themselves heard as well. On Wednesday morning, the two sides were battling it out in the top trending topic in the United States: “Obamacare.”

For more on this CNN story, click here.

By Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday that  he will speak on the Senate floor “until I am no longer able to stand” in opposition to the president’s health care law, making a symbolic stand to support a legislative strategy that is increasingly opposed by his fellow Republican senators.

Cruz is urging senators to vote against a procedural step on the House-passed spending bill that would keep the government running when the fiscal year ends Monday, but also cut funding to implement the Affordable Care Act.

Most of Cruz’s Republican colleagues have said they intend to vote for the motion to cut off debate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We’d all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we were in favor of,” McConnell told reporters. “It strikes me as a no-brainer.”

But Cruz said that an affirmative vote is a vote to allow Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to strip the House bill of the “Obamacare” language, something he said would be a “profound mistake.” That position is supported by outside conservative groups, including the Club For Growth.

PHOTOS: The debate over Obamacare

Cruz argued that he was making a principled stand for the American people, rather than using Senate procedure as cover. “Our leaders in both parties are asking us … to cut off debate on a bill without even knowing what’s in it,” he said. “That’s how Washington does business.”

His intent to speak uninterrupted on the Senate floor recalls a March filibuster from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to protest the Obama administration’s drone policy. But Paul seized control of the Senate floor, delaying all other business, while Cruz is just aiming to hold the floor himself until the Senate votes Wednesday on the first of two procedural motions.

That difference led Reid to bluntly say there is no filibuster.

“Filibusters are to stop people from voting. We are going to vote tomorrow,” Reid said Tuesday morning. “No one can stop that.”

Cruz arrived in the Senate chamber Tuesday afternoon carrying a thick binder and was recognized to speak at 2:41 p.m. After nearly an hour, he deferred to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a partner in the months-long campaign to push the Republican-led House to adopt the defund strategy. He resumed his remarks after about 15 minutes.

Paul’s filibuster lasted nearly 13 hours, a span that included remarks from Cruz and others in support of his effort.



House GOP commits on government shutdown

Joe Biden on Capitol Hill to Negotiate Fiscal CliffBy Lisa Mascaro, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — House Republicans united Wednesday around a plan to use the threat of a government shutdown as leverage to repeal President Obama‘s healthcare law, confident the American people are on their side.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) yielded to his right flank by agreeing to attach the healthcare law repeal to a must-pass bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30. A vote is expected Friday on a bill that would allow the government to stay open for the next few months.

The measure is all but certain to pass the Republican-led House, but faces rejection in the Senate, where the Democratic majority has shown little interest in undoing Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Without a resolution by Oct. 1, the start of the new federal fiscal year, the government will run out of money to keep federal workers on the job and provide basic services.

Boehner and his leadership team had tried to avoid a prolonged battle over government funding, but the speaker saw no other option after the most conservative House members revolted last week.

“Every member in this room is for defunding Obamacare,” Boehner told his colleagues in a private meeting in the Capitol basement, according to a source in the room. “We’re going to send it over to the Senate, so our conservative allies over there can continue the fight.”

Top Republicans worry the party will be blamed if government services are interrupted, much the way the party suffered during the last shutdowns in the mid-1990s. They were hoping to hold off the fight over repealing the healthcare law until next month, when Obama may be forced to bargain in exchange for the administration’s request to raise the debt limit to borrow money to avoid defaulting on the nation’s bills.

But many rank-and-file Republicans believe stopping the healthcare law is their constituents’ top priority.

“We’re doing what the American people are asking us to do,” said third-term Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.). “I think now is the time. You take the best opportunity that you have.”

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), among those leading the fight, said, “I think over the next 12 days there’s going to be a strong argument from the American people saying this is the path forward.”

Polls show more Americans oppose the law, the Affordable Care Act, than support it, even as the online health insurance marketplaces are set to open Oct. 1. Obama on Wednesday asked the Business Roundtable, an organization of top business leaders, to use its influence to encourage lawmakers to “not promise apocalypse every three months.”

“I think this is the time for us to say once and for all we can’t afford these kinds of plays,” Obama said. “I know the American people are tired of it. I’m tired of it, and I suspect you’re tired of it too.”

A similar message was sent to Capitol Hill from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which warned that it was “not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown.”

The fight to keep the government running is the first in series of choke points this fall that Republicans intend to use to pressure Obama since they have failed repeatedly to stop the healthcare law.

By mid-October, Congress will be asked to raise the debt limit, and Republican leaders are gearing up to demand a one-year delay of the healthcare law as part of any deal with the White House. The funding bill, if approved, would keep the government open through Dec. 15.

How Congress will handle the Sept. 30 deadline for a government funding resolution remains an open question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will probably ask Democrats to strip the healthcare law repeal from the resolution, but Republicans in the Senate will be under enormous pressure to prevent that.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a potential presidential contender who has been a vocal opponent of the healthcare law, and other conservative senators are being urged by their House colleagues to mount a round-the-clock filibuster, if needed, to thwart Democrats.

The senator, however, did not appear to promise heroics as he acknowledged Reid probably had enough votes. But Cruz’s spokesman said “all options remain on the table.”

Intensifying the threat of a shutdown, Boehner does not appear to have a backup plan if the Senate sends the funding bill back to the House without the healthcare law repeal.

Many House Republicans appear unprepared for that scenario, which could unfold late next week. Others, such as Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), insisted they would not vote for a bill that did not kill the healthcare law.

“This is the line in the sand,” he said.

Boehner may need to rely on Democrats to help pass the bill, which he has been increasingly reluctant to do because it could threaten his already shaky hold over his Republican majority.

Christi Parsons in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.