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Countdown To Shutdown: The Ted Cruz Show Comes To A Close

Democratic Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan visited with mothers and babies at a Capitol Hill Obamacare event Wednesday.

Wednesday's Highlights

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ended his marathon Senate floor speech at noon when his appointed time ran out.

He concluded his 21-hour-plus session by calling on his fellow Senate Republicans to block final passage of the spending bill the Senate must pass to avoid a government shutdown next week: "Otherwise, if we vote with the majority leader and with the Senate Democrats, we will be voting to allow the majority leader to fund Obamacare on a straight party line vote, partisan vote," he said.

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, immediately labeled Cruz's speech a "big waste of time." The Senate then took a procedural vote on the question of whether to move forward toward a debate on the House-passed spending bill. That bill contains the language to defund Obamacare -- which the Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to remove.

The result was a 100-to-0 vote to move forward (it needed 60). That vote obviously included Cruz, who surprised many who thought the only logical thing for him to have done was to vote "no."

On the Senate floor, Arizona Republican John McCain castigated Cruz for likening those opposed to the Texan's approach to World War II-era Nazi appeasers. McCain defended Republican senators who were in the chamber in 2009 and 2010 for the initial Obamacare battles for fighting the good fight, but ultimately losing to the majority.

"In democracies, almost always, the majority governs and passes legislation. But I was extremely proud of the effort that we on this side of the aisle made to attempt to defeat a measure we thought was not good for America," McCain said.

What Now?

The Senate's unanimous Wednesday vote kicked off what is essentially a debate-filled 30-hour waiting period before senators take their next vote.

What's Next?

Thursday, Sept. 26: The next vote could come in the evening during which the Senate would vote to proceed to actual debate on the House budget bill itself. Cruz would have another chance then to vote against moving forward. Reid needs only 51 votes to proceed.

Reid is expected to get those votes since he has 52 Democrats -- before you even count the two independent senators who caucus with them.

The majority leader is then expected to substitute an amendment to expunge the House GOP provision to defund Obamacare. He is also expected at this point to file a cloture motion to limit debate and to use Senate rules to keep senators from proposing amendments.

Friday, Sept. 27: Debate

Saturday, Sept. 28: This is when a vote to end the debate is expected and Reid would again need 60 votes. The Senate would get a new 30 hours to debate.

Sunday, Sept. 29: The Senate is then expected to vote on two amendments that would only need a simple 51-vote majority. One would remove the anti-Obamacare language; the other would be for a "clean" spending bill or continuing resolution. The Senate would then send the clean CR to the House.

Monday, Sept. 30: The House would have until midnight to approve the Senate version of the CR. If not, come Tuesday it's "Good morning, government shutdown."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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