Senate takes first step on stop-gap budget

Despite sharp divisions over the best way to avoid a government shutdown, the Senate voted 100-0 on the first procedural vote related to a House-passed stop gap budget bill that would both keep the government running into mid-December and block money for the Obama health law.

The vote came an hour after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrapped up a 21 hour 19 minute speech on the Senate floor, in which he appealed for Americans to join in expressing their opposition to the Obama health reform law.

“The answer is defund this bill that isn’t working, that’s hurting the American people, that’s killing jobs,” said Cruz.

Here was Cruz as he finished his speech to the Senate, which is now the fourth longest floor speech in the history of the Senate:

Cruz though was one of the 100 votes in favor of shutting off debate and proceeding to the bill, an outcome that left some in the Capitol puzzled, given that Cruz and some other Republicans had indicated they would try to block consideration of the House passed stop gap budget bill.

“If we vote with the Majority Leader and with Senate Democrats, we will be voting with the Majority Leader to fund Obamacare,” Cruz said near the end of his remarks – though backers said he was now talking about the ‘next’ big cloture vote.

His statement brought a lot of comments from Republican-leaning voters on social media, who heard the same thing, and were confused.

“So, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Mike Lee voted in favor AFTER standing with Sen. Ted Cruz – I’m confused with this process,” wrote one listener.

“So, exactly what was the point of the 21 hours?” asked another.

“I thought he said a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare?” another added in.

“Callers into our office very confused after that 100-0 cloture vote,” tweeted the Communications Director for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

There were a group of Republicans – including Cruz – who were ready to vote against this first cloture vote, but decided not to, ready to instead focus on the second cloture vote (on the bill) that will occur most likely on Saturday.

But the confusion over this vote – and what it meant – was exactly what some GOP Senators had expressed concerns about yesterday, worried that Cruz was pushing them to vote against considering a bill that they supported.

As for what’s next in the Senate, the possible schedule looks like this:

If Senators require 30 hours of debate allowed after this cloture vote, then the Senate will vote Thursday around 7:30 pm on the motion to proceed to the House-passed funding bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would then file cloture on the bill; that vote would take place on Saturday morning.

If Senators require 30 hours of debate allowed after that cloture vote, then the Senate would take final votes on the bill starting around 8:00 pm on Sunday night.

But there is a chance that time will be yielded back by both parties, and that schedule will be accelerated.

Stay tuned.