- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Republican rift over Obamacare spilled onto the Senate floor Thursday during an ugly debate in which Sen. Ted Cruz questioned a colleague’s knowledge of Senate rules and Sen. Bob Corker retorted that Mr. Cruz was putting his political ambitions ahead of his party and the country.

The nasty spat underscored the high stakes of a government shutdown and the level of confusion among Republicans as they spar over how far they are willing to go to stop major parts of Obamacare from taking effect next week.

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All sides are racing a midnight Monday deadline to pass a spending bill and have a major debt deadline looming weeks later, but Thursday passed with little more than tough talk and line-drawing.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he won’t allow any conditions to be attached to a stopgap spending bill or a debt-limit bill. House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said he won’t pass either bill without conditions.

“I do not see that happening,” Mr. Boehner said after meeting with his colleagues behind closed doors.

The lack of a middle ground left both men staring at the growing threat of a government shutdown next week.

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As of late Thursday, the legislative situation was complex: The House has passed a bill that funds the government through Dec. 15 but withholds money for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is poised to pass its own version Friday after changing the government funding date to Nov. 15 and adding back the money for Obamacare. That would send the bill back to the House, where Republican leaders would try again.

Senate Democrats and most Republicans wanted to move their vote to Thursday, saying that accelerating the process would give House Republicans more time to act.

But Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican, and Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, objected. They insisted that the votes wait for Friday instead. That ignited the bitter exchange on the Senate floor.

Mr. Corker, going head-to-head with Mr. Cruz on the Senate floor, said his Texas colleague was more interested in having people watch him speak than in getting a good deal for the country.

“They want people around the world to watch maybe them and others on the Senate floor. And that is taking priority over getting legislation back to the House so they can take action before the country’s government shuts down,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Mr. Cruz is trying to rally his colleagues to unite behind his call for a cloture vote Friday, saying that if they block the bill, Democrats will be forced to cave and remove the health care funding.

“I don’t think the American people are confused,” Mr. Cruz said.

Democrats watched the Republican infighting with glee but sided with Mr. Corker.

“This is an effort to stall,” Mr. Reid told Mr. Cruz and Mr. Lee, accusing them of “some kind of subterfuge to close the government.”

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