Despite Cruz, Senate heads toward Obamacare vote

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 10 a.m. EDT

Wednesday, Cruz and his allies had spoken for more than 19 hours,

the fourth-longest Senate speech since precise record-keeping

began in 1900.

That surpassed March's 12-hour, 52-minute speech by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., like Cruz a tea party lawmaker and potential 2016

presidential contender, and filibusters by such Senate icons as Huey Long of Louisiana and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

Paul, who has questioned Cruz's tactics, gave the admittedly tired Texan a respite Wednesday morning by joining the debate

and criticizing Obamacare.

Republican leaders and several rank-and-file GOP lawmakers had opposed Cruz's time-consuming effort with the end of the fiscal

year looming. They fear that Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans won't have enough time to respond to the Senate's

eventual action.

With no food or restroom breaks, his tie

finally loosened, Cruz kept pushing on to a predetermined adjournment of

the Senate

at noon. Cruz was helped by eight of his conservative allies who

gave him brief respites by asking lengthy questions as permitted

under Senate rules, though he was required to remain on his feet.

Cruz said he has learned that defying party leaders is "survivable," adding, "Ultimately, it is liberating" and that his long

evening involved "sometimes some pain, sometimes fatigue."

But he added, "You know what? There's far more pain in rolling over. ... Far more pain in not standing up for principle."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., downplayed the significance of Cruz's speech after arriving at the Capitol Wednesday

morning.

"He raised some money with the tea party folks," Reid said. "That's what it's all about."

The House-passed measure is required to

prevent a government shutdown after midnight Monday and contains a tea

party-backed

provision to "defund" implementation of what's come to be known as

"Obamacare". Cruz is opposed to moving ahead on it under

debate terms choreographed by Democrats to defeat the Obamacare

provision.

The mechanics of advancing the bill were overshadowed by Cruz's speech, which included a reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs

and Ham" to his daughters back home in Texas.

"When Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham and they did not like Obamacare either," Cruz

said. "They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse. It is not working."

Cruz's effort doesn't have a chance to

succeed, however, both because Senate rules are working against him and

because many

of his GOP colleagues think his quixotic effort combines poor

strategy with political grandstanding at the expense of other

Republicans. Some of Cruz's leading allies include organizations

like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth

that frequently give financial help to conservatives challenging

more moderate Republicans in primaries.

At issue is a temporary spending bill required to keep the government fully open after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget

year. Hard-charging conservatives like Cruz see the measure as an opportunity to use a must-pass measure to try to derail

Obama's signature health care law.

Under pressure from Cruz and tea party

activists, House GOP leaders added the anti-Obamacare language to the

funding measure

despite fears it could spark a partial government shutdown that

could hurt Republicans in the run-up to midterm elections

next year — just as GOP-driven government shutdowns in 1995-96

help revive the political fortunes of President Bill Clinton.

"I just don't believe anybody benefits from shutting the government down, and certainly Republicans don't," said Sen. Orrin

Hatch, R-Utah. "We learned that in 1995."

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.

Missing from the debate were top Republicans

like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Cruz's

home-state

GOP colleague John Cornyn, who say that on a second vote later

this week, they will support ending Cruz's effort to derail

the funding bill. That vote is crucial because it would allow top

Reid of Nevada to kill the Obamacare provision on a simple

majority, instead of the 60 votes often needed for victory.

Democrats control the chamber with 54 votes.

"I think we'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill that we're in favor of," McConnell told reporters

Tuesday. "And invoking cloture on a bill that defunds Obamacare ... strikes me as a no-brainer."

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, McConnell warned

that 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.

The overnight debate included some diversions.

Lee discussed a childhood accident in which

his foot was run over by a car driven by his father and spoke of his

longing to

be a pirate. Cruz recalled his first Christmas dinner with his

future wife's vegetarian parents, which he described as "just

like any other Christmas dinner except the entree never comes."

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.