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Senate spending bill on track to pass despite GOP threat

1:37 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Despite the best efforts of two Tea Party-aligned Senate Republicans, the chamber will clear a key procedural hurdle Wednesday in order to advance a stopgap spending bill that leaves intact President Obama's health care law.

"Filibusters stop people from voting, and we are going to vote tomorrow," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Tuesday, noting that Senate rules allow for the vote to occur Wednesday.

Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have vowed to use procedural tactics - including the rarely used talking filibuster - to delay debate on the bill that would keep the government on auto-pilot at the current $986 billion annual spending level through Dec. 15.

The House-passed spending bill also includes a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, and the Senate's vote on Wednesday would essentially clear the way for a final up-or-down vote by the weekend. Reid is expected to strip out the language eliminating spending for the health care law, which is why Cruz and his allies are using blocking tactics.

Democrats are also considering changing the time period of the stopgap spending bill, perhaps as early as mid-November, in order to nudge lawmakers toward passing the annual spending bills instead of relying on stopgap measures. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said she will be seeking a longer-term resolution to the dozen fiscal year spending bills that remain unfinished that would also allow lawmakers to turn off unpopular, across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester for up to two years.

The majority of Senate Republicans have said they oppose Cruz's tactics on the stopgap bill, in part because of fears of political repercussions for being blamed for a government shutdown, which will occur Oct. 1 if Congress doesn't pass it.

The chamber's top two Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Monday that they will not vote with Cruz, a clear signal that there are the 60 votes necessary to move forward with the spending bill.

Republicans continue to unanimously oppose "Obamacare," which begins open enrollment on Oct. 1, and are seeking other avenues to dismantle the law.

For example, House Republicans are working to approve a legislative package tied to a debt ceiling vote increase expected next month that would delay implementation for one year in exchange for suspending the nation's borrowing limit through next year.

Obama has maintained that he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling because of the potentially sweeping economic repercussions that could arise from the United States defaulting on its debt payments.

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