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Senate Votes Unanimously to Take Up Debate on Budget Bill After Cruz ‘Talkathon’

September 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Our lead story tonight: A bill to fund government operations beyond the end of the month cleared its first procedural hurdle today. It was a rare unanimous vote.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman begins our coverage.

WOMAN: On this vote, the yeas are 100, the nays are zero. The motion is agreed to.

KWAME HOLMAN: That outcome without a single dissenting vote came after Texas Republican Ted Cruz and others strongly dissented for more than 21 hours. They warned fellow Republicans to insist that any bill that funds the government also defunds the president’s health care law.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-Texas: I don’t think you’re entitled to vote with Harry Reid and the Democrats, give Harry Reid and the Democrats the ability to fund Obamacare, and then go to your constituents and say, I agree with defunding Obamacare. You don’t get it both ways.

KWAME HOLMAN: The talkathon split Republican ranks. On one hand, Florida’s Marco Rubio defended Cruz’s tactics.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-Fla.: If nothing else, I think people across this country know more about this law and its impacts than they did a day ago. If nothing else, the people in this country are now increasingly aware of all the implications of this law on their lives, on their dreams, on their hopes, and on their families.

KWAME HOLMAN: A number of other Republicans took issue with Cruz, in particular his comparing the current fight to events preceding World War II.

TED CRUZ: Look, we saw in Britain Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that’s not our problem. And in America, there were voices that listened to that. I suspect those same pundits who say it can’t be done, had it been in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them.

KWAME HOLMAN: That drew a forceful rebuke today from Arizona’s John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: I resoundingly reject that allegation. That allegation, in my view, does a great disservice, a great disservice for those brave Americans and those who stood up and said what’s happening in Europe cannot stand.

KWAME HOLMAN: On the Democratic side, Majority Leader Harry Reid minced no words in dismissing Cruz’s effort.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: It has been a big waste of time. The government is set to shut down in a matter of hours, just a few days. Government will close. And it’s a shame we’re standing here having wasted perhaps two days, most of yesterday and a good part of today.

KWAME HOLMAN: In the end, after the marathon floor speeches, even Cruz voted in favor of taking up the government funding bill. He said the real test will be another procedural vote expected tomorrow. Majority Democrats say if they get over that hurdle, they have the votes to strip the anti-Obamacare language from the bill, and pass it by the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration today released its first estimates of how much premiums will cost the uninsured under Obamacare. And the House returned to work, as it waits for the Senate to finish the spending bill and the clock counts down to the deadline for a government shutdown next Tuesday.