Senate defies Cruz, strips language defunding ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Friday voted to strip language defunding ObamaCare from a stopgap spending measure on Friday after a bipartisan vote to proceed with the measure.

The Senate voted on party lines to remove the ObamaCare language, in a 54-44 vote. GOP Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchCongress braces for high-drama lame duck Trump to award Medal of Freedom to Babe Ruth, Elvis, Scalia, Hatch How much power do states have? Supreme Court holds the answer MORE (Utah) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former NY Times book critic: I take back my positive review of Jeff Flake's book Majority say Trump should face primary challenge, poll finds MORE (Ariz.) were absent for the vote. 

The ObamaCare vote came after the Senate voted to proceed in a 79-19 vote, with 25 Republicans voting in favor of moving forward and 19 voting against.

The GOP votes represented a rejection of Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIncoming Dem lawmaker from Texas says Nielsen should be replaced as DHS chief Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Poll: Biden and Sanders lead 2020 Dem field, followed by Beto O'Rourke MORE’s arguments that Republicans would be helping Democrats in moving the bill forward.

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A number of the Texas Republican’s colleagues said it was better to get the bill back to the House to give the lower chamber more time to deliver an alternative funding measure.

The Senate is now voting on approving the bill. That vote will succeed, placing the ball in the House's court. 

It’s unclear what the House will do next. 

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerHouse Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader Republicans jockey for top GOP spot on House Foreign Affairs Committee McMorris Rodgers won't run for GOP leadership MORE (R-Ohio) has not developed a clear plan, and the House GOP Conference plans to meet on Saturday to consider its options.

The government will shut down on Tuesday without a new funding measure.

Cruz, backed by Tea Party groups, lobbied his colleagues throughout the week to block the bill in order to prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress Democrats have a Puerto Rican problem Dem Susie Lee defeats Danny Tarkanian to retain Nevada House seat MORE (D-Nev.) from removing the ObamaCare provisions.

In the end, 19 of Cruz's colleagues backed him: GOP Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate Republicans demand Google hand over memo advising it to hide data vulnerability Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen MORE (Kan.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioJeb Bush calls for Broward County official to be removed from post Florida Dem rep: Scott is 'spinning conspiracy theories' Gillum retracts concession in Florida governor's race MORE (Fla.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Jame Risch (Idaho), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDivided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal Midterms poised to shake up US-Saudi defense ties Graham: 'Game changer' if Saudis behind journalist's disappearance MORE (Okla.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe case for bipartisan solutions GOP lawmakers condemn attempted attacks on Democrats Trump takes steps to punish Saudi Arabia MORE (Ohio), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Democrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Whitaker’s past business dealings under scrutiny MORE (Ala.), David VitterDavid Bruce VitterSenate panel advances Trump nominee who wouldn't say if Brown v. Board of Education was decided correctly Planned Parenthood targets judicial nominee over abortion comments Trump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge MORE (La.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSchumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress GOP pollster says Republicans could break with Trump on Saudi Arabia Overnight Defense: Trump says 15,000 troops could deploy to border | Mattis insists deployment is not 'stunt' | Pompeo calls for Yemen peace talks in November MORE (Ky.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCongress must make sentencing reform priority for public safety MyPillow CEO to attend White House opioid discussion Congress raises pressure on Saudi Arabia MORE (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Waters defends planned probe of Trump finances after GOP backlash Grassley to make chairmanship decision after meeting with colleagues next week MORE (Idaho), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziGOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally Jockeying already stepping up in House leadership fights Overnight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Judge upholds Obama's marine monument | GOP lawmakers worried states using water rule to block fossil fuels | Lawmakers press Trump ahead of ethanol decision MORE (Wyo.), Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerThis week: Congress starts lame-duck with leadership fight Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle GOP's Fischer wins second term as Nebraska senator MORE (Neb.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEvangelical leader: Not worth risking ties with Saudi Arabia over missing journalist GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Congress allows farm bill to lapse before reauthorization deadline MORE (Kan.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDebbie Stabenow reelected to a fourth Senate term in Michigan Trump should stick to his guns and close failed South Carolina nuclear MOX project Treasury releases guidance on 'opportunity zone' program created by Trump tax law MORE (S.C.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerElection Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Sinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Sinema defeats McSally in Arizona Senate race MORE (Nev.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyPavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions MORE (Iowa) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Senate GOP leaders did not want to be blamed for quashing a bill necessary to avert a government shutdown on Tuesday, when funding is scheduled to expire. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure MORE (Ky.), who voted to advance the bill, argued earlier in the week that the legislation deserved to advance to a final vote because, as initially written, it would halt the healthcare law’s implementation.

“Invoking cloture on a bill that defunds ObamaCare, doesn’t raise taxes and respects the Budget Control Act, it strikes me as a no-brainer,” McConnell told reporters.

McConnell emphasized Friday morning that the Senate GOP Conference is unified in its desire to repeal the law, even if its members disagree over tactics.

Cruz and other Tea Party-affiliated conservatives argued that by agreeing to limit debate, Republicans would give Reid the power to radically rewrite the bill and pass it with simple majority votes.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), one of Cruz’s allies, said that by voting to end debate and set up a final vote, Republicans would empower Reid to gut the House-passed resolution.

“Everyone knows that the vote we’re about to take — cloture on the House-passed continued resolution — is essentially a vote to allow Democrats to gut the House bill,” Lee said. “That’s why every Senate Democrat is supporting it.”

Cruz tried to rally his Republican colleagues by speaking on the floor for more than 21 hours over Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.

The impassioned effort fired up conservative activists, who flooded Senate offices with calls and tied up phone lines but gained little traction with GOP senators, who grew increasingly irritated with Cruz as the week wore on.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVan Hollen not interested in staying on as chair of Senate Dems' campaign arm Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Jeff Flake congratulates Kyrsten Sinema on win: ‘You’ll be great’ MORE (R-Ariz.) scolded Cruz for comparing GOP leaders’ stance on defunding ObamaCare to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s effort to appease Adolf Hitler.

“I think it’s wrong and I think it’s a disservice to those who stood up and shouted at the top of their lungs that we cannot appease and that we must act,” he said.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Juan Williams: Trump's hostile takeover of the GOP Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal MORE (R-Tenn.) on Thursday rebuked Cruz for delaying the votes until Friday morning, accusing him of playing to the C-SPAN cameras and giving the House less time to respond.

Reid in a floor speech on Friday criticized Cruz for holding up the Senate’s work.

“Every minute that passes is a minute we get closer to a government shutdown,” Reid said. “But a bad day for government is a good day for the anarchists among us. ... So the question is, can we overcome the modern day anarchist?”

The Senate also rejected a budget point of order against the bill in a 68-30 vote. 

Sessions, the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, raised the point of order, saying the bill exceeds the 2011 Budget Control Act by continuing the current spending level at the annualized rate of $986.3 billion.

— Ramsey Cox contributed to this story. 

This story was updated at 1:21 p.m.