Updated at 8:28, 10:55 ,11:48 am, 1:41 and 2:33 pm EDT
Can we talk?
Ted Cruz can, and he did for nearly 20 hours.
With six working days left — including the weekend — until the deadline for averting a government shutdown, the Republican from Texas held court against President Barack Obama’s health-care law with a comparison of the Affordable Care Act to “Green Eggs and Ham.” So unpalatable, he suggested, that Americans rejected it.
The Dr. Seuss classic, of course, ends with the grump getting to like that new dish.
(“Thank you, thank you, Sam I am.”)
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When his marathon talk-a-thon was finished, Cruz checked in with radio’s Rush Limbaugh:
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) September 25, 2013
Which raised a certain question of what that floor demonstration was all about.
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The senator probably never had enough votes to cut off funding for the 2010 health-care law under a stopgap U.S. spending bill, as Bloomberg’s Kathleen Hunter and John McCormick reported this morning:
Yet the college debate champ may achieve other goals with his campaign against the health initiative: Raising his national profile and rallying support among the small-government, Tea Party faction of a divided Republican Party. Cruz is showing no sign that he’ll retreat from his vow to use a spending measure as leverage to halt implementation of Obama’s signature health-care law. That’s even as a talk-a-thon he began yesterday, during which he killed time reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” and referencing the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty,” alienated many fellow Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand, to do everything that I can to help Americans stand together and recognize this grand experiment three and a half years ago is quite simply not working,” Cruz said at the outset of 16 hours of remarks on the Senate floor that continued early today in Washington. Viewed by critics as an opportunist and by allies as an ideological purist, Cruz, 42, has ruffled many feathers in Washington since arriving in January. His delay tactics this week could help push the federal government to the brink of a shutdown Oct. 1.
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“I think he thinks he’s starring in a movie. It’s all kind of about him.” — Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, speaking of Cruz, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today.
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The Seuss recital has left Cruz vulnerable to a certain amount of ribbing by his opponents today. Organizing for Action’s David Plouffe, offered his own poetic takeoff on Cruz’s standoff and his apparent ambitions for 2016:
Ted would not go to bed. Hoping to strengthen Tea Party cred. To Iowa he soon fled. But Obamacare will never be dead. — David Plouffe (@davidplouffe) September 25, 2013
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Under the chamber’s rules, Cruz was to be interrupted at noon, when the Senate planned to automatically adjourn and reconvene to start a new legislative day. After that, Cruz could continue speaking until a 1 p.m. EDT procedural vote to advance the bill.
Then, his speech time would technically be limited to one hour.
Colleagues could yield him additional time, and some probably would. Yet near noon, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid interrupted with a question — to see if Cruz would yield 15 minutes of his noon-hour time to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona — Cruz said that wouldn’t be necessary, because he assumed his time would end at noon. Was Cruz unaware of the rule and his ability to keep talking, cable news commentators started asking, or was he playing dumb about the rule to catch a break at noon after an overnight speech-fest that appeared to be having little impact on the ultimate vote?
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Then, when it came time to vote on advancing the spending bill to debate — a vote which would not necessarily commit anyone to actually voting for the bill — Cruz cast his vote to go forward. This left some wondering why Cruz would vote to advance a bill he wanted to block. And it left some asking if he knew which way was up — voting for the bill he’d slammed all night long.
So remember when Senator Reid accidentally and momentarily voted against the health care bill? Feels a little like that.
— carl hulse (@hillhulse) September 25, 2013
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The Senate vote was unanimous — probably news in and of itself.
Sixty votes was all leaders were looking for, in the short run.
The Senate was voting today on advancing a stopgap spending measure to carry government operations past Sept. 30.
McConnell of Kentucky said yesterday he would support a quick vote on the Senate spending measure to then give House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, time to craft an alternative to the one the House has passed attaching the defunding of “Obamacare,” as Bloomberg’s Roxana Tiron reports with Hunter today.
Cruz’s intention of using all the time allotted to him was contributing to running a clock, leaving Congress less room to pass a final measure to keep the government open after funding authority ends on Sept. 30, they report.
The Senate needs 60 votes to advance the House spending measure, which leaders planned to amend. That would allow up to 30 additional hours of debate, after which Reid could set another vote to end debate on the bill.
They’ll only need 51 votes to approve their bill that goes back to the House.
Which is what Cruz was worried about from the start.
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