Ted Cruz Faux Filibuster Goes On As Senate Readies Spending Bill Vote

Credit: CBS
By  | 

The Senate will take a procedural step toward passing a short-term funding resolution Wednesday afternoon, though it likely won't help avert a government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to get the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle before the Senate can vote on the House Republicans' spending bill. The vote is expected in the early afternoon, according to Senate aides, but the timing depends on when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ends the lengthy floor speech he began delivering Tuesday afternoon.

Cruz couldn't prevent the vote from moving forward, but he took to the floor at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday announcing, "I intend to speak against Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand." The multi-hour affair technically is not a filibuster, because of the Senate's procedural rules, but resembled a filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., earlier this year during the nomination of now-CIA Director John Brennan. That went on for just under 13 hours.

His marathon entered its 17th hour at 6:41 a.m. ET on Wednesday. He did, however, get periodic breaks when other senators took the floor -- at least 8 Republicans and 2 Democrats at last count.

Cruz's remarks temporarily delayed the Senate from moving forward with a procedural vote on the House Republicans' spending bill, which funds the government through Dec. 15 but strips funding from the Affordable Care Act. Senate aides tell CBS News that the vote will happen no later than 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, regardless of Cruz's speech.

Although Cruz fully supports defunding the health care law, he has expressed concern that allowing the Senate to consider the measure will only allow Democrats to amend it and put the funding back in.

"Anyone who votes to cut off debate is voting to allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] to fully fund Obamacare," Cruz said on the floor of the Senate.

Cruz was joined by a handful of his colleagues on the Senate floor, including Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but his strategy does not appear to have gained traction with most of his fellow Republicans.

"I think we'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we were in favor of," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after Senate GOP gathered for their weekly lunch meeting Tuesday. Many Republicans in the upper chamber were prepared to vote for the measure, which they favored, and Democrats were ready to get their hands on the bill so they could amend it and restore funding for the law.

House members are set to return to Washington Wednesday afternoon, but there won't be much they can do about funding the government until the Senate sends back a revised version of their bill. That may not happen until Sunday, because of procedural hurdles - which would force the House to act quickly to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

"We'll deal with whatever the Senate passes when they pass it," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "There's no point in speculating before that."