Saturday, March 8, 2014
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks to reporters as he emerges from the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept 25, 2013, after his overnight crusade railing against the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare." Cruz ended the marathon Senate speech opposing President Barack Obama's health care law after talking for 21 hours, 19 minutes.
AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., and other lawmakers meet with new mothers and their babies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, to criticize Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare." Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said Democrats would defend President Obama's health care law, adding, she would not return to a time when insurance companies denied benefits to women because being a pregnant was considered a preexisting condition. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Even with the 100-0 vote, the legislation faces several hurdles that must be overcome as both houses and lawmakers in both parties work to avoid a partial shutdown next Tuesday.
The struggle over restoring funds for the health care law is by far the most contentious unresolved issue.
Senate Democrats also want to increase funding for federal firefighting efforts without making offsetting cuts to other programs. The House-passed bill provides $636 million for the program, but includes reductions elsewhere to avoid raising the deficit.
To avoid a partial government shutdown, a single, agreed-upon version must be approved by Congress and signed by Obama by Tuesday. Officials pointed out that there is still time for the Senate to restore the funds for the health care law — and for the House to seek a more modest overhaul concession, perhaps a one-year delay in the requirement for individuals to purchase coverage or the repeal of a tax on medical devices that many Democrats oppose.
The shutdown issue is a particularly haunting one for Republicans, some of whom were in Congress two decades ago when the GOP suffered politically as the result of a pair of government closures in the winter of 1995-1996.
In a further complication, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress that the Treasury's ability to borrow funds will be exhausted on Oct. 17, and legislation is needed to renew its authority if the government is to avoid a first-ever default.
The House is expected to approve a measure later this week allowing Treasury to borrow freely for another year, although that legislation, too, will include a provision to carry out the Republican campaign against "Obamacare." While no final decisions have been made, party officials say a one-year delay is likely to be added, rather than the full-fledged defunding that is part of the spending bill awaiting action in the Senate.
If the events themselves were complicated, the political maneuvering was no less so.
At least temporarily, they pitted Cruz and his tea party allies inside Congress and out against the party establishment, including House Speaker John Boehner and the Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Little more than a week ago, conservatives in the House rank and file forced Boehner and other leaders to include the defunding provision on legislation required to avoid a shutdown, despite their concerns that it would set the party up for failure.
Within hours after the measure cleared the House, Cruz infuriated his allies by virtually conceding he wouldn't have the votes to prevail in the Senate, and stating that "At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground and continue to listen to the American people."
Cruz appeared at a news conference the next day to proclaim he would do "everything and anything possible to defund Obamacare," including a possible filibuster of legislation to prevent a shutdown.
Senate Republicans were less than enthusiastic about that, and several said so and made it clear they would not follow the path that Cruz laid out of seizing every opportunity to slow or stop the bill. By Tuesday, the Texan was under pressure from fellow Senate Republicans to let the legislation pass relatively quickly, to make sure the government stayed open.
When he began his remarks, he vowed to speak in opposition until "I am no longer able to stand."
Nearly 24 hours later, he offered to shorten the time it would take to debate the measure and voted along with Republicans and Democrats alike to send it over its first hurdle.