A narrow majority of Senate Republicans took steps to try to avoid a US government shutdown on Friday, voting in favour of a procedural motion that passes the vexed spending bill back to their more radical colleagues in the House of Representatives.
Only 19 Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz of Texas, voted against the so-called cloture motion, which marked the last chance for Republicans to prevent Democrats from stripping out a clause that would defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Two subsequent Senate votes, stripping out the Obamacare threat and agreeing final passage of the so-called "clean" spending bill, were each passed along party lines by 54 to 44.
Twenty-five Republicans voted with Democrats in favour of allowing the spending authorisation bill to progress.
But Cruz predicted that his House colleagues would stand their ground against Obamacare and refuse to accept the spending bill which will now be sent back to them by the Senate.
House conservatives are threatening to try once again to attach measures aimed at scrapping Obamacare before pinging the bill back to the Senate hours before current spending authorisation expires on Monday night.
"When it comes back to this body in a few days, I very much hope we unite," said Cruz shortly before the series of Senate votes on Friday.
Watched by a number of allies from the lower chamber, including congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, Cruz succeeding in garnering support from a clutch of fellow conservative senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky but fell significantly short of the 40 votes needed to block passage of the bill.
With the help of Republican leaders, Senate majority leader Harry Reid secured a total of 80 votes in favour of cloture, allowing him to stage three more straightforward majority votes that stripped out the Obamacare threat and sent the so-called continuing resolution back to the House.
The scale of the Republican split in the Senate may help moderates in the House who are urging the party to step back from its threat to shut down to the government if Obamacare is not blocked.
House speaker John Boehner has been urging colleagues to turn their fire instead on a separate budget fight over whether to extend government borrowing limits in mid-October. But many House Republicans were in uncompromising mood on Friday morning, and are threatening to attach more riders to the spending bill over the weekend.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
Original headline: Senate strips Obamacare defunding clause and sends spending bill to House
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