UPDATE: Senate votes unanimously to clear path for government funding debate
Updated at 1:33 p.m. ET | The U.S. Senate voted 100-0 to continue the debate on the measure to fund the federal government and defund the Affordable Care Act. The unanimous vote came just after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke for more than 21 hours on his opposition to ACA and his intent on blocking the continuing resolution.
Updated on Sept. 25 | Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., finishes his marathon speech after 12 hours, 19 minutes. Cruz is now talking to reporters off Senate floor. In response to Cruz’s speech, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said “I’m not sure we learned anything new.” WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled Senate is on a path toward defeating tea party attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law, despite an overnight talkathon on the chamber’s floor led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The freshman Cruz and other conservative Republicans were trying to delay a must-pass spending bill, but were virtually sure to lose a test vote on that legislation planned for later Wednesday.
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. By 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Cruz and his allies had spoken for more than 18 hours, the fourth-longest Senate speech since precise record-keeping began in 1900.
Cruz took the floor at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday, vowing to speak until he’s “no longer able to stand.” Wearing black athletic shoes, he filled the time in a largely empty chamber, criticizing the law and comparing the fight to the battle against the Nazis. He talked about the Revolutionary War, the Washington ruling class and his Cuban-born father who worked as a cook.
If Cruz employs all delaying tactics at his disposal, the Senate might not vote to pass the measure until Sunday. But with the fiscal year set to expire at midnight Monday, extended delays could hamper the GOP-controlled House’s ability to send a pared-down measure back to the Senate in time to try to salvage some kind of victory, perhaps on a bipartisan proposal to eliminate a new Obamacare tax on medical devices.
As the sun rose, Cruz was helped by another tea party favorite and possible rival for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination: Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida lawmaker spoke for over an hour about the damage he said Obamacare is doing to the economy, as Cruz — who must remain in the chamber and standing to retain control of the debate — strolled in a nearby aisle and occasionally leaned against desks.
Despite his tenacity, it seemed Cruz would not surpass the longest Senate speech on record, a 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster by South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond against the civil rights act in 1957.
Senate rules required the chamber to have an initial vote on the spending bill by early Wednesday afternoon — a roll call that would end Cruz’s remarks short of the record.
Associated Press reporters Andrew Taylor, Alan Fram and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.