U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) walks towards the Senate Chamber after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Committee luncheon September 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Sen. Cruz is leading an effort in the Senate to defund Obamacare. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Cruz's marathon talking protest of President Obama's health care law continued in earnest Wednesday morning, even as the Senate was headed toward a procedural vote on a measure that would continue its funding.
Around noon, the Senate is expected to vote and move forward on the spending bill, which would continue funding the law known as Obamacare -- despite the objections of Cruz and his conservative allies in the Tea Party movement that the legislation is a costly intrusion into peoples' lives. If Congress does not pass a stopgap spending bill before the end of the month, the government could face a shutdown on Oct. 1.
Technically under Senate rules, Cruz's talkathon is not a filibuster because the Texas Republican cannot prevent the Senate from having the scheduled vote. He said Wednesday about 8:20 a.m. ET that he was not ready to give up.
"Everyone understands this is must-pass legislation. Everyone understands we will fund the government," Cruz said Wednesday, arguing that his protest is not "just Washington symbolism."
Cruz took control of the Senate floor about 2:41 p.m. ET on Tuesday, vowing to speak on the Senate floor "until I am no longer able to stand." Overnight, he filled time by talking about the Revolutionary War, the battle against the Nazis, reading tweets from supporters and even reciting Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham.
Cruz also shared "words of wisdom" from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty and quoted much of country music singer Toby Keith's song Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.
Shortly before 7 a.m. ET Wednesday, Cruz passed Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wis., who spoke on the Senate floor for 16 hours, 12 minutes in 1981 to protest raising the nation's debt limit. In terms of time spent controlling the floor, Cruz has passed such legendary Senate talkers as Robert Byrd, Alfonse D'Amato and Huey Long.
GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida arrived before dawn Wednesday to ask questions of their fellow Tea Party disciple so Cruz didn't have to speak the whole time. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., took his turn and offered to buy Cruz breakfast.
Cruz and Lee have led the defund effort despite criticism from Senate Republicans who view their tactics as short-sighted because there is no chance of passage up against a Democratic-led Senate and Obama's veto pen.
Lee referred to the Supreme Court ruling that declared Obamacare to be constitutional as a "lawless act" and "something that we should be ashamed of as Americans."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday that filibusters "stop people from voting, and we are going to vote tomorrow." Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, posted on Twitter on Tuesday that Cruz and Reid had pre-negotiated the terms of Cruz's floor time.
The House-passed spending bill under debate in the Senate maintains the current annual $986 billion funding levels across the federal government through Dec. 15 but includes a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, the law's official title.
The Senate's vote on Wednesday would essentially clear the way for a final up-or-down vote by the weekend, but Reid is going to strip out the language eliminating spending for the health care law, which is why Cruz and his allies are using blocking tactics.
Senate Democrats also intend to change the time period of the stopgap spending bill to Nov. 15, in order to nudge lawmakers closer toward passing the annual spending bills instead of relying on stopgap measures. "The best way to stop lurching on this crisis to the next crisis is to get back into funding our government the way the Founding Fathers set it out, through the appropriations process," Reid said.