In a rare moment for the United States Senate, the “world’s greatest deliberative body” has voted, unanimously, on something.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 100-0 on the motion to proceed to debate the House of Representatives-passed continuing resolution to keep the government funded. The vote came about an hour after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) finished his 21-plus-hour speech in opposition to including Obamacare funding in the continuing resolution.
Cruz, along with every other Republican senator that accompanied him on the floor during his speech, voted in favor of invoking cloture on the motion to proceed.
This sounds confusing — after all, Cruz just spent nearly an entire day railing against passage of the bill. But this was Cruz’s plan all along. He opposes invoking cloture to end debate on the bill — that vote will come either Friday or Saturday.
Here’s what Cruz said on the Senate floor Tuesday (emphasis added):
“The central vote the Senate will take on this fight will not occur today and it will not occur tomorrow. The first vote we are going to take on this is a vote on what is called cloture on the motion to proceed. Very few people not on this floor have any idea what that means and even, I suspect, a fair number of people on this floor are not quite sure what that means. That will simply be a vote whether to take up this bill and to begin debating this bill. I expect that vote to pass overwhelmingly, if not unanimously. Everyone agrees we ought to take this up, we ought to start this conversation.
The next vote we take will occur on Friday or Saturday and it will be on what is called cloture on the bill. That is the vote that matters. Cloture on the bill, the vote Friday or Saturday, is the vote that matters.
Because the cloture vote has now passed, there’s now a 30-hour shot clock in the Senate that allows for debate on the bill.
Cruz signaled a willingness on Wednesday to accelerate parliamentary procedure so that the Senate could hold that all-important vote — on cloture to end debate — on Friday, so that more people would be paying attention.
This is the vote that “matters” — and it’s also where things will get awkward. At this point, the bill will still have the House language that strips funding for Obamacare, which is what conservatives have pressed for all summer.
At the same time, Cruz and other conservatives realize that Senate rules make it possible for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to introduce his amendment stripping the language that defunds Obamacare. And he will only need a majority vote for the amendment to pass.
Republicans’ choice, then, is to either filibuster the bill that includes the language they wanted — and essentially endorse a government shutdown — or to essentially allow Reid to be able to introduce the amendment and strip the language.