* Republicans rejecting Senator Cruz gambit on Obamacare
* House Republicans' final move on spending unclear
* Capital Hill gridlock must be broken by Oct. 1
By Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Sept 24 U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a
renegade Tea Party favorite, took his fight to defund President
Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul to the Senate floor on
Tuesday, but most of his Republican colleagues refused to join
In fact, a majority of the 46 Republicans in the Senate may
end up lining up instead with their party leaders, who want to
pass an emergency spending bill by Sept. 30 that would avoid a
federal government shutdown and would undercut Cruz's
high-stakes effort to stop Obamacare.
Standing in a nearly empty Senate, Cruz began an
attention-grabbing speech in the early afternoon Tuesday that
could stretch into Wednesday in favor of withholding funds to
operate the government unless Obamacare is gutted.
"I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I
am no longer able to stand," said the freshman Texas senator who
has his eye on a 2016 run for president.
He went on to talk about his father "flippin pancakes,"
making "green eggs and ham," "the travesty of Obamacare," and,
proudly, about his unpopularity among many fellow Republicans.
Practically every day, he said in his marathon speech, "I
now pick up the newspaper to learn what a scoundrel I am."
It had the look and sound of an old-fashioned "filibuster"
used traditionally by senators to block legislation, except that
in this case, it won't.
Under Senate rules, Cruz must yield the floor for a
procedural vote on Wednesday when Democrats and many Republicans
are expected to band together to begin moving the must-do
spending bill toward passage, likely on Sunday.
It will then go back to the House, which will have one day
to pass the bill or find a compromise with the Senate. Unless
new funding is quickly approved, a government shutdown would
begin on Tuesday.
Republicans uniformly want to repeal Obamacare. But many see
that as a political impossibility in the face of Democratic
opposition and do not want to trigger a government shutdown in a
battle that even Cruz has acknowledged is futile.
For the most part, Democrats sat back enjoying the display
of a Republican in a dog fight with other Republicans.
Cruz has a following however. Club for Growth, a
conservative group influential among Republicans, put senators
on notice that it expected them to support Cruz's bid and block
Democrats' from eliminating the provision to defund Obamacare.
But his fellow Republicans were moving in the other
direction one day after the party's top two leaders in the
Senate, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, refused to lend their
support to Cruz.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican on the Senate
Finance Committee that oversees Obamacare, announced he would
side with McConnell rather than Cruz.
Senator Lindsey Graham said he expects a majority of the
Senate's 46 Republicans will reject Cruz's high-stakes maneuver
that has been embraced by the Republican-led House of
"I think most Republicans believe, no matter how sincere you
are about defunding Obamacare, that this approach would blow up
in our face," Graham told Reuters in a brief hallway interview
on Capitol Hill.
A government shutdown could ruin the party's chances of
winning back control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
At the urging of Cruz and other legislators aligned with the
anti-government Tea Party movement, the Republican-led House of
Representatives passed the bill providing government funding but
without money for Obamacare. Passage came on a party-line vote
Since Cruz launched his bid, Republican senators and their
aides have been unusually candid in their impatience with him,
laying bare a deep split within the Republican Party.
"We will end up not shutting the government down and we will
not defund Obamacare. That's how the movie ends," Republican
Senator John McCain of Arizona told reporters.
As the Senate slowly moved through a debate that likely will
lead to passing a government funding bill by Sunday, House
Republicans continued to weigh their options once they receive
the Senate's work.
Some congressional aides have said that a new round of House
amendments were being weighed, possibly including one to repeal
an unpopular medical device tax aimed at generating $30 billion
in revenues over a decade to help pay for Obamacare subsidies.
SENATE PASSAGE POSSIBLE SUNDAY
The Senate is expected to pass a new bill by Sunday. It
would then be returned to the House for concurrence. The chamber
could then approve the Senate version or try to amend it - but
would only have a day or so before current government funding
At this point, it is unclear what the House Republican
leadership would decide to do, generating plenty of questions
House Republican leaders have not informed rank-and-file
members what the final stage of the fight over the spending bill
will look like, according to an aide to one junior Republican.
"First and foremost, he doesn't want the government to shut
down," the aide said, though adding that the lawmaker was under
intense pressure from conservatives back home to stop Obamacare.
"He is definitely stressed," the aide said.
Once the battle over government funding bill is resolved,
Congress will grapple with another fiscal crisis - a possible
and unprecedented U.S. government default unless it agrees to
raise the $16.7 trillion U.S. borrowing authority by sometime
next month or early November.
Republicans are expected to place demands on any bill to
increase the debt limit, including one to delay for a year
implementation of Obamacare, now set to begin to kick in next