The Senate voted unanimously in favor of a procedural measure that will allow the body to vote later this week on a short-term spending plan to keep the government running.
After a 21-hour, 19-minute speech from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lambasting Obamacare and urging his colleagues not to move forward with a vote on the House Republican spending plan, he and his 99 other colleagues voted to move forward. After another 30 hours of time have expired, the Senate will vote on the bill, which funds the government through Dec. 15 but defunds the health care law. Given the Democratic majorities in the Senate, it is all but certain to fail.
The unanimous vote was a surprise since Cruz had originally opposed moving forward with debate on the bill. While he supports the actual plan to strip funding from Obamacare, he was concerned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would merely add an amendment to restore funding and send the bill back to the House. Reid has, indeed, promised to amend the bill in exactly that way.
But most of Cruz's colleagues did not agree with the logic refusing to vote on a bill they agreed with. "I think we'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we were in favor of," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after Senate GOP gathered for their weekly lunch meeting Tuesday.
Several more votes are expected before final passage of the spending bill, which will likely happen over the weekend. Cruz has now turned his attention to that next vote.
"I hope we stand united. We did not going into this debate, but I hope that dissipates and we all stand together against cloture on the bill," Cruz told reporters after concluding his filibuster-style speech on the floor. "Anyone voting with [Majority Leader] Harry Reid and the Democrats on cloture is voting to give Harry Reid and the Democrats the ability to fund Obamacare with just 51 votes."
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."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Obama did not observe any of Cruz's speech. "The president will, I'm sure, be discussing these budget issues with the leadership," Carney said, but he did not have any specific planned meetings to report.