WASHINGTON — Tea party conservative Sen. Ted Cruz ended his all-night talkathon to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law after 21 hours and 19 minutes as legislation required to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight Monday easily cleared an initial Senate hurdle.
Weary after a day and night on his feet, Cruz simply sat down at 12 noon EDT on Wednesday, the predetermined time for the Senate to adjourn, as several of his colleagues applauded. Senate Republicans and some House members congratulated the Texas freshman.
Cruz actually joined every other senator in a 100-0 procedural vote to allow the measure to officially be lain before the Senate. He says Republicans should rally against the measure in a vote scheduled Friday or Saturday on whether to cut off a filibuster on the measure itself, a vote that promises to give Democrats controlling the chamber a procedural edge if Cruz is not successful in blocking them.
Cruz wants to derail the spending bill to deny Democrats the ability to strip a “defund Obamacare” provision out, a strategy that has put him at odds with other Republicans who fear that the move would spark a shutdown. After the vote, Cruz told reporters he hopes “that Republicans will listen to the people, and that all 46 Republicans come together. Coming into this debate we clearly were not united, there were significant divisions in the conference. I hope those divisions dissolve, that we come together in party unity.”
He added: “Otherwise, I will say this: Any senator who votes with Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats to give Majority Leader Harry Reid the ability to fund Obamacare on a pure 51-vote, party vote, has made the decision to allow Obamacare to be funded.”
The Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, shrugged off Cruz’ effort.
“For lack of a better way of describing this, it has been a big waste of time,” said Reid, D-Nev.
Since Tuesday afternoon, Cruz — with occasional remarks by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and other GOP conservatives — has controlled the Senate floor and railed against Obamacare. At 10:41 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Cruz and his allies reached the 20-hour mark, the fourth-longest Senate speech since precise record-keeping began in 1900.
That exceeded March’s 12-hour, 52-minute speech by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., like Cruz a tea party lawmaker and potential 2016 presidential contender, and filibusters by such Senate icons as Huey Long of Louisiana and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
In a reflection of the limited GOP support for Cruz’ effort, no members of the Senate leadership came to the Texan’s aid.
Cruz said he has learned that defying party leaders is “survivable,” adding, “Ultimately, it is liberating” and that his long evening involved “sometimes some pain, sometimes fatigue.”
But he added, “You know what? There’s far more pain in rolling over. … Far more pain in not standing up for principle.”
Republican leaders and several rank-and-file GOP lawmakers had opposed Cruz’s time-consuming effort with the end of the fiscal year looming. Both Democrats and Republicans say they want to speed Senate action so that that the GOP-controlled House would have enough time to respond to the Senate’s eventual action.
Two financial deadlines loom — keeping the government operating after Oct. 1 and raising the nation’s borrowing authority. In a letter to Congress on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the government will have exhausted its borrowing authority by Oct. 17, leaving the United States with just $30 billion cash on hand to pay its bills.