The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to move ahead with the bill passed by the House of Representatives last Friday, which averts a government shutdown while defunding the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate will now begin the process of amending the House bill and is certain to strip the House’s language defunding Obamacare, in addition to likely making several other changes that could include shortening the time period covered by the continuing resolution. The bill currently funds the government through mid-December, but Reid reportedly hopes to change that date to November 15 in an effort to pressure Congress to work quickly on a long-term budget deal.
One thing that Reid will not change is the overall spending level adopted by the House. Despite the misgivings of some Senate Democrats, the Majority Leader will adopt the $986.3 billion spending level that was put in place by the budget sequester and maintained by the House bill.
Senator Reid has said that he hopes to pass an amended budget bill “sometime on Sunday,” which would give the House under 48 hours to pass the Senate bill, or amend it further and send it back to the Upper Chamber. If Congress cannot come to a final agreement by October 1, the federal goverment would shut down — with deeply damaging effects on the economy.
“Every hour that we delay here is an hour closer to shutting down the government,” Reid said on the floor after the vote. “We have wasted enough time…let’s start moving forward to get things done.”
Before the Senate voted, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke for over 21 hours in protest against the Affordable Care Act. The marathon speech — during which Cruz mixed apocalyptic rhetoric about the dangers of Obamacare with stalling tactics such as reading Green Eggs and Ham — was cheered by some on the right, but also drew criticism from members of both parties. Majority Leader Reid reiterated that it was not actually a filibuster, and called it “a big waste of time.” Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sharply criticized Cruz for comparing his opposition to Obamacare to the fight against Nazi Germany.
“I resoundingly reject that allegation,” McCain said. “That allegation in my view does a great disservice.”
The vote ultimately passed with an unusual amount of bipartisan support; even Senator Cruz voted “aye.” Despite their support for opening debate on the bill, however, Cruz and his colleagues on the right are certain to oppose the inevitable vote to close debate later in the week.
“The next vote we take will occur on Friday or Saturday and it will be on what is called cloture on the bill,” Cruz noted during his speech. “That is the vote that matters.”