Senate begins debate on spending bill

September 23, 2013

Updated 4:41 p.m.

The U.S. Senate began formal consideration of a short-term spending plan Monday, setting in motion several days of debate over a Republican-backed measure that would strip funding for the new federal health-care law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (The Washington Post)

But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) once again vowed to strip out language that would defund the law known as Obamacare, saying that Republican "fanatics" were trying "to take the federal government and our economy hostage to their demands."

"We're not going to bow to tea party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law," Reid said. "We will not bow to tea party anarchists who refuse to accept the Supreme Court ruling that Obamacare is constitutional. And we will not bow to tea party anarchists in the House or in the Senate, who ignore the fact that President Obama was overwhelmingly reelected a few months ago."

Almost immediately, Reid faced Republican backlash as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) verbally objected to the Senate leader's request that the chamber also debate and vote on the nomination of a federal district court nominee Tuesday morning.

Later, Cruz sought unanimous consent to approve House-passed spending measure and to ensure that all amendments to the Senate spending bill be passed with at least 60 votes. But Reid objected to both requests.

Making good on his promise to use whatever Senate procedural tactics necessary to upend or slow debate over the spending bill, Cruz then spent about 15 minutes criticizing Reid for objecting.

“There is a tendency in this town towards brinksmanship, towards pointing to events that can cause instability and uncertainty and using them to try to get your way,” Cruz said.

Speaking of Republicans, Cruz also said that “It is our obligation to our constituents to do everything we can to prevent [Reid] from funding Obamacare.”

Regardless, Reid still has the ability to set up the spending measure for its first key procedural test vote on Wednesday morning. More votes on the bill would come on Thursday.

The full Senate returns just before noon Tuesday and the House is not scheduled to reconvene until Wednesday. Senate debate on the spending measure, formally known as a continuing resolution, is expected to continue through the weekend, with final passage coming as late as dinnertime Sunday. The bill would then head across the U.S. Capitol to the House, with roughly 30 hours left until government funding expires Tuesday morning.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.
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