WASHINGTON (AP) - The Democratic-controlled Senate is on a path toward defeating tea party attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law, despite an overnight talkathon on the chamber's floor led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The freshman Cruz and other conservative Republicans were trying to delay a must-pass spending bill, but were virtually sure to lose a test vote on that legislation planned for later Wednesday.
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. As 7 a.m. EDT Wednesday approached, Cruz and his allies had spoken for more than 16 hours, the fifth longest Senate speech since precise record-keeping began in 1900.
That surpassed 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.
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.
The House-passed measure is required to prevent a government shutdown after midnight Monday and contains a tea party-backed provision to "defund" implementation of what's come to be known as "Obamacare". Cruz is opposed to moving ahead on it under debate terms choreographed by Democrats to defeat the Obamacare provision.
The mechanics of advancing the bill were overshadowed by Cruz's filibuster, which included a reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" to his daughters back home in Texas.
"When Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham and they did not like Obamacare either," Cruz said. "They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse. It is not working."
Cruz's effort doesn't have a chance to succeed, however, both because Senate rules are working against him and because many of his GOP colleagues think his quixotic effort combines poor strategy with political grandstanding at the expense of other Republicans. Some of Cruz's leading allies include organizations like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth that frequently give financial help to conservatives challenging more moderate Republicans in primaries.
At issue is a temporary spending bill required to keep the government fully open after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Hard-charging conservatives like Cruz see the measure as an opportunity to use a must-pass measure to try to derail Obama's signature health care law.
Under pressure from Cruz and tea party activists, House GOP leaders added the anti-Obamacare language to the funding measure despite fears it could spark a partial government shutdown that could hurt Republicans in the run-up to midterm elections next year - just as GOP-driven government shutdowns in 1995-96 help revive the political fortunes of President Bill Clinton.