The Senate voted Wednesday to take up the legislation to keep the government open past Sept. 30 following a marathon speech by Sen. Ted Cruz that did little to slow or affect that vote's outcome.
Though the freshman senator from Texas spent more than 21 hours on his feet speaking throughout the night to urge colleagues against voting to take up House-passed spending legislation, the Senate did just the opposite. The chamber will next hold a series of votes to approve its own version of the bill and send it back to the House.
It's now a race against the clock for Congress to figure out a workable solution before the end of Monday, after which all but the most essential government services would cease. Such a shutdown would have broad economic consequences, along with political implications for both parties.
The Senate voted with unanimity to invoke "cloture" on the motion to proceed -- that is, produce the 60 votes needed to formally take up the legislation and dispatch the threat of a filibuster. Even after hours of haranguing his colleagues to stall action to prevent Democrats from changing the legislation, Cruz voted with every other senator to begin the process of changing it.
This allows the Senate to take up the legislation, and will enable Democrats to eventually strip the defund-Obamacare measure from the House-passed legislation. That amendment will need to achieve cloture, and Cruz is expected to vote against that.
The bill passed last week by the House would fund the government for an additional two months, but also defund "Obamacare." Cruz had opposed taking up this legislation so that Democrats could not strip the defund-Obamacare measure from the underlying legislation before sending it back to the Republican-controlled House.
Ironically, after having exhausted almost all of the time allotted to debate the vote to take up the House bill, Cruz called for limiting debate before the next vote so that the Senate would vote on Friday. Americans would be less inclined to pay attention on Saturday, Cruz reasoned, citing the day's slate of college football games as one such distraction.
A sped-up timeline would also allow the Republican House more time to consider its response to whatever stopgap spending measure returned to it by the Senate. The House is expected to remain in Washington throughout the weekend, and could vote to send another offer back to the Senate if Republican leaders can settle upon a workable alternative that can win over their party's unruly conservative contingent.
The legislative wrangling makes for a high-stakes game of brinksmanship, with a government shutdown in the balance.
Virtually every Republican leader has said they oppose a government shutdown, placing blame with Democrats and President Barack Obama for rejecting their bid to undo the Affordable Care Act before its central components take effect on Oct. 1. But Obama had widely broadcast his opposition to undoing his signature domestic accomplishment for weeks, accusing Republicans of being unable to accept the onset of Obamacare.
First published September 25 2013, 10:29 AM