Mr. Cruz's critics have said that he is not engaging in a filibuster in the sense it is most commonly understood: a tactic meant to block legislation from moving forward. But Senate historians said that there is, in fact, no hard-and-fast definition for the word.
"The filibuster is not just to delay legislative action," said Katherine Scott, a historian for the Senate Historical Office. "It's been used in a lot of ways, and one way has been to draw attention to a particular issue a member has concern about."
Senior Senate Republicans pushed Mr. Cruz on Tuesday to give up his stalling tactics and let the Senate take its final votes as soon as possible to strip out the health care language and other policy prescriptions, then approve new language to keep the government operating until mid-November. An early vote would give the House speaker, John A. Boehner, more time to plan his next move: whether to put the Senate-passed bill up for a vote and ensure no government shutdown or to add new Republican-favored language and send it back to the Senate.
Some Senate Republicans suggested a quick vote on a stopgap spending measure could allow the House to attach a measure related to the Affordable Care Act but one that could split Democrats and possibly become law. The obvious target would be a tax on medical devices that helps finance the law, but which has strong opponents in both parties. House Republicans are also considering adding a one-year delay in the individual mandate.
Such procedural niceties carried little weight with the conservative activists backing Mr. Cruz, and the conservative advocacy groups egging them on. Phone lines were jammed by Cruz supporters. E-mails flew, encouraged by organizations like the Tea Party Patriots and the Heritage Foundation. The Senate Conservative Fund, a group that has been running advertisements attacking Republicans who are not supporting the "defund Obamacare" effort, called Mr. McConnell and the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, "turncoats."
But most Republicans showed little fear of a backlash for voting to take up the House bill. "If this is what you wanted, consideration of this bill, I don't know how you can be against taking it up," said Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina.
Mr. Reid moved Tuesday to change the House-passed bill, shortening the stopgap spending measure so it would finance the government only through mid-November instead of mid-December. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Democrat from Maryland who leads the Appropriations Committee, requested the change to raise pressure on the House to address the automatic spending cuts that are squeezing federal programs and are reflected in the spending plan passed by the House.
But such narrow issues took a back seat to Mr. Cruz's crusade, with bit parts granted to his Senate Republican supporters. They included Mr. Rubio, Mike Lee of Utah, Pat Roberts of Kansas, David Vitter of Louisiana, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Mr. Paul, whose own filibuster this year over the government's use of lethal drone strikes lasted 12 hours and 52 minutes.
Topics Mr. Cruz addressed included his affection for the little hamburgers at White Castle, the fast-food chain that says its growth is slowing because of the health care law, and a tough-love speech by Ashton Kutcher. He doled out insults to the Washington establishment, blasting politicians in "cheap suits" and "bad haircuts," and branding journalistic fact-checking as a "particularly pernicious bit of yellow journalism." At one point, he read some of his daughters' favorite stories.
Under the current timetable, the Senate will vote Wednesday to cut off debate on a motion to take up the House bill and vote Thursday to actually take up the House bill. Mr. Reid will then introduce his version of the stopgap spending bill, stripped of the health care language and other policy measures.
The real showdown vote will probably come on Saturday, when the Senate votes to cut off debate on Mr. Reid's version of the bill. If that receives 60 votes, a final vote would come on Sunday, leaving the House one day to act before much of the government closes its doors.
That would give Mr. Boehner a stark choice: pass a short-term spending bill with Democratic votes and risk the wrath of conservative activists or try again to take a bit out of the health care law with no time left on the clock and ensure a shutdown.
"I don't know what all the scenes are, but I've seen how this movie ends," said Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona. "We will end up not shutting the government down, and we will not defund Obamacare."
(c) 2013 Legal Monitor Worldwide. All Rights Reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info an Albawaba.com company
Original headline: After 21 Hours, Cruz Ends Senate Speech
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