The mechanics of advancing the bill were overshadowed by Cruz's speech, 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."
Senate rules are working against Cruz, who also has angered many GOP colleagues who complain privately that the freshman has set impossible expectations 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 donate money 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.
"I just don't believe anybody benefits from shutting the government down, and certainly Republicans don't," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We learned that in 1995."
Cruz took the floor at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday, vowing to speak until he's "no longer able to stand." Wearing black athletic shoes, he filled the time in a largely empty chamber, criticizing the law and comparing the fight to the battle against the Nazis. He talked about the Revolutionary War, the Washington ruling class and his Cuban-born father who worked as a cook.
Missing from the debate were top Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Cruz's home-state GOP colleague John Cornyn, who say that on a second vote later this week, they will support ending Cruz's effort to derail the funding bill. That vote is crucial because it would allow top Reid of Nevada to kill the Obamacare provision on a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes often needed for victory.
Democrats control the chamber with 54 votes.
"I think we'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill that we're in favor of," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "And invoking cloture on a bill that defunds Obamacare ... strikes me as a no-brainer."
The overnight debate included some diversions.
Lee discussed a childhood accident in which his foot was run over by a car driven by his father and spoke of his longing to be a pirate. Cruz recalled his first Christmas dinner with his future wife's vegetarian parents, which he described as "just like any other Christmas dinner except the entree never comes."
As the sun rose, Cruz was helped by another tea party favorite and possible rival for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination: Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida lawmaker spoke for over an hour about the damage he said Obamacare is doing to the economy, as Cruz — who must remain in the chamber and standing to retain control of the debate — strolled in a nearby aisle and occasionally leaned against desks.
Despite his tenacity, it seemed Cruz would not surpass the longest Senate speech on record, a 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster by South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond against the civil rights act in 1957.
Associated Press reporters Alan Fram and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Original Headline: Despite Cruz, Senate heads toward Obamacare vote
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