Republican senator rails against Obamacare in 21-hour speech
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Republican Senator Ted Cruz concluded a 21-hour, 19-minute verbal attack on the United States’ new health care programme Wednesday, during which he tried to dismantle President Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment and argue it be defunded.
The Democratic-led Senate was on a path Wednesday to passing a bill to prevent a government shutdown while protecting President Barack Obama’s health care law, despite a conservative senator’s attempt to block the effort by talking all night and into the morning.
At issue is a temporary spending legislation required to keep the government fully open after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives sent the Senate a version of the bill with a provision that would defund the health care law, trying to seize the opportunity to dismantle Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment.
But the Senate is all but certain to return it to the House as a straight-forward funding bill stripped of the health care provision. The question is whether the House will approve that version of the legislation or risk a partial government shutdown.
The issue has roiled the Republican Party, exacerbating the divide between hard-right conservatives and more moderate party leaders who fear Republicans will get blamed if the government shuts down.
Encouraged by conservative groups, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, spoke all night and into the morning in an attempt to delay passage of the spending bill. He ended his marathon speech after talking for 21 hours, 19 minutes, with occasional remarks by other conservative senators. They were virtually sure to lose a procedural vote on the legislation planned for later Wednesday.
Such paralyzing fiscal fights have dominated Washington in recent years, underscoring the deep divide between the Republicans and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies. The two sides have managed in the past to come up with last-minute compromises to avoid a shutdown.
A potentially even bigger impasse looms in October over the U.S. debt limit.
House Republicans are considering carrying over their campaign against the health care law into legislation needed to increase the nation’s credit limit. They have raised the possibility of attaching a 1-year delay in the implementation of a mandate that individual Americans buy health care insurance. Democrats would strongly oppose that measure.
If no agreement is reached, the U.S. risks a first-ever default on its obligations. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the government will have exhausted its borrowing authority by Oct. 17, leaving the United States just $30 billion cash on hands to pay its bills.
Republicans fiercely oppose the health care overhaul as an intrusion into individual decision-making. But Republican leaders opposed Cruz’s time-consuming effort, arguing that defunding the health care law simply won’t happen with a Democratic president and Democrats controlling the Senate.
Cruz, who had started speaking Tuesday afternoon, 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, his Cuban-born father who worked as a cook and even recited Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Republican leaders feared that such delaying tactics would push a final vote into the weekend, giving House Republicans little time to come up with a new temporary spending bill needed to avert a partial shutdown.
Democrats calculate that the public will blame Republicans for any interruption in government services or benefits, as it did during the last Republican-driven shutdown in 1995-96, which ended up reviving 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, a Utah Republican. “We learned that in 1995.”