WASHINGTON — Tea party conservative Sen. Ted Cruz ended his all-night talkathon to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law after 21 hours and 19 minutes as the Senate pushed ahead to a test vote today on a bill to avert a government shutdown.
Weary after a day and night on his feet, Cruz simply sat down at 12 noon EDT, the predetermined time for the Senate to adjourn, as several of his colleagues applauded. Senate Republicans and some House members congratulated the Texas freshman.
As Cruz’s allotted speaking time was nearing its end, he offered to skip the initial vote and shorten debate on the underlying stopgap spending bill that’s required to avert a government shutdown after midnight on Monday.
The Senate’s top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, said the vote would go ahead as planned. Reid shrugged off Cruz’ effort.
“For lack of a better way of describing this, it has been a big waste of time,” Reid said.
Since Tuesday afternoon, Cruz — with occasional remarks by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and other GOP conservatives — has controlled the Senate floor and railed against Obamacare. At 10:41 a.m. EDT today, Cruz and his allies reached the 20-hour mark, the fourth-longest Senate speech since precise record-keeping began in 1900.
That exceeded March’s 12-hour, 52-minute speech by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., like Cruz a tea party lawmaker and potential 2016 presidential contender, and filibusters by such Senate icons as Huey Long of Louisiana and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
With no food or restroom breaks, his tie finally loosened, Cruz was helped by eight of his conservative allies who gave him brief respites by asking lengthy questions as permitted under Senate rules, though he was required to remain on his feet.
Cruz said he has learned that defying party leaders is “survivable,” adding, “Ultimately, it is liberating” and that his long evening involved “sometimes some pain, sometimes fatigue.”
But he added, “You know what? There’s far more pain in rolling over. … Far more pain in not standing up for principle.”
Republican leaders and several rank-and-file GOP lawmakers had opposed Cruz’s time-consuming effort with the end of the fiscal year looming. They fear that Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans won’t have enough time to respond to the Senate’s eventual action.
Two financial deadlines loom — keeping the government operating after Oct. 1 and raising the nation’s borrowing authority. In a letter to Congress today, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the government will have exhausted its borrowing authority by Oct. 17, leaving the United States with just $30 billion cash on hand to pay its bills.
That’s a slightly worse financial position than Treasury predicted last month and it adds to the pressure on Congress to increase the government’s borrowing cap to avert a first-ever U.S. default on its obligations.