WASHINGTON — Senators moved past a talkathon by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday with a baby step toward advancing legislation to keep the government open next week, while the Obama administration set an Oct. 17 date for the next crisis — raising the nation's debt limit.
The slow-moving process in the Senate left lawmakers with little to do but let the clock run on procedures for a bill that would keep the government running and defund the health care law known as Obamacare.
At the current pace, it would be Sunday before the Democratic-controlled Senate would approve legislation that — if all goes as Democrats plan — would fund the government, including Obamacare, through Nov. 15.
That leaves plenty of time to negotiate with the Republican House leaders about an end game, but those GOP leaders have to figure out their next move. House Republicans, who sent the Senate the bill to fund all of government except Obamacare, are expected to huddle Thursday morning.
All House members received “guidance” on Wednesday about how to determine which staff members can keep working if the government shuts down on Tuesday.
In the midst of the struggle over funding the government, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying that the government needs the authority to borrow more money beginning Oct. 17 or it would no longer be able to meet its obligations.
Congressional Republicans are expected to attach a long list of demands to raising the debt ceiling, but President Barack Obama has insisted that he won't negotiate over paying the nation's bills.
Cruz ends talkathon
Cruz, R-Texas, relinquished the Senate floor at noon Wednesday after 21 hours on his feet talking mainly about his objections to Obamacare and the way Washington works, with detours into Dr. Seuss and “Star Wars.”
“The most profound issue we are dealing with here today is not jobs, it is not the economy, it is not health care, it is not Obamacare,” Cruz said Tuesday night.
“The most profound issue we are dealing with here today is the fundamental divide between Washington and American people. There is a ruling class in Washington, D.C. — that they are subjected to different rules than the American people.”
Cruz was one of the main drivers of the current effort to defund Obamacare through a must-pass spending bill, but he is now urging Republicans to block the legislation to prevent the Democrats from stripping out the Obamacare language.