WASHINGTON — Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s latest battle to get the Senate to defund Obamacare came to an abrupt halt Friday afternoon, when a large majority of senators voted in favor of the procedural move that Cruz had been opposing as the last barrier against the health-care law.
Over Cruz’s objections, Senators voted 79-19 in favor of invoking cloture on the House-passed resolution to fund the federal government past Monday, when the current funding resolution expires. Voting on cloture is a procedural vote that allows the Senate to move forward with consideration of the bill.
Cruz was joined by just 18 of his fellow Republicans: Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Dean Heller of Nevada, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Jim Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and David Vitter of Louisiana.
Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi originally voted no, but then switched his vote to yes.
On Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee accused Cruz and Lee of delaying the vote until Friday because they had sent out press releases and wanted an audience. Indeed, the Senate Gallery was a little over half full, and continued to fill as the vote ticked on. Several members of the House also showed up for the vote, including Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp.
The House bill funds the government while defunding the 2010 Affordable Care Act, something that Republicans, including Cruz, support. But Democrats wanted to remove the provision defunding Obamacare, and as they have a majority in the Senate, they were be able to do so.
In an attempt to prevent that from happening, Cruz had hoped to block the Senate from moving forward and thereby forestall the votes that followed: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s amendment to the House bill that provides funding for Obamacare.
Reid’s amendment also changes the bill to only fund the government through Nov. 15; the House version funded the government through Dec. 15.
After voting on the amendment, the Senate passed the Democratic bill along party lines by a 54-44 vote, and sent it back to the Republican-controlled House.
If the Senate and the House cannot come to an agreement on how to fund the government and vote to pass said agreement before midnight on Monday, the federal government may experience a spending gap, which is widely described by politicians and media as a “shutdown.”
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch were not present for the vote for family reasons.
Cruz, in a statement, decried the vote, saying it was “the latest example of Washington not listening to the people.”
He expressed hope that the House would continue his fight to defund the healthcare law, and took a jab at his fellow House Republicans, 25 of whom voted for cloture.
“Today, far too many Republicans joined Harry Reid in giving the Democrats the ability to fund Obamacare,” he said. “When the bill comes back to the Senate, when the House yet again stands for principle and fights for the American people, I very much hope that Senate Republicans will rise to the challenge.”