Senators from both parties linked arms to defy Sen. Ted Cruz, overcoming his attempt to filibuster the stopgap spending bill, which allowed Democrats to add back in full funding for Obamacare and power the bill through the chamber and sending it back to the House.
“This is it. Time is gone,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said he will not negotiate with the House GOP anymore. “They need to accept what we just passed.”
The 79-19 vote saw 25 Republicans join with all Democrats to advance the bill, easily overcoming Mr. Cruz and his allies who had argued this was the key point that would determine whether major parts of President Obama’s health care law take effect next week.
Once that hurdle was cleared, the rest of the votes were preordained. The Senate waived budget rules, voted to strip out the Obamacare defunding on a 54-44 party line vote, and passed the bill.
The bill now heads back to the House, where Republicans are struggling to figure out a path forward, trapped between a right wing which insists on full defunding and Senate Democrats, who just proved that stance cannot succeed.
“This is like the movie ‘High Noon. The two sides are walking down the street. I just hope that like the movie ‘High Noon,’ I hope the good guys win,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who accused Mr. Cruz and his allies of being anarchists, hoping to destroy government altogether.
He said the country is facing a situation “every bit as dangerous” as the lead-up to the Civil War.
For Republicans, the rhetoric was more muted but the vote was no less weighty.
“Do we just give up?” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican who joined Mr. Cruz’s push to block the spending bill.
Without any action, the government’s authority for basic spending expires at midnight Monday, and operations such as school funding and national parks would have to cease.
The House has passed a bill to fund government through Dec. 15 but to withhold any money for Obamacare. If all goes according to Senate Democrats’ plans, they will pass their own bill that funds government through Nov. 15 and restores money for the health care law.
Democrats outflanked Republicans with parliamentary moves that left the GOP in a bitter internal argument over what the votes even meant.
Mr. Cruz and his allies argued the key vote was the first one on whether to filibuster the spending bill. They said if the GOP held together, they could successfully halt it, which would force Democrats to have to compromise and halt Obamacare funding or else face a government shutdown.
But Republican leaders feared that they would be blamed for the shutdown, and argued that a filibuster didn’t make sense because at the point they would be voting, the bill still includes the defunding Obamacare language.
“I don’t understand how I can vote otherwise on a matter that I want to see passed,” said Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber.
Mr. Cruz and his allies, though, argue that is tantamount to voting for Obamacare funding. Indeed, Republicans have regularly led filibusters before when they’ve argued Democrats structured an unfair floor debate.
Despite their defeat, Mr. Cruz and his chief filibuster ally, Sen. Mike Lee, said the fight goes on.
“This vote is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. It’s the end of the beginning,” Mr. Lee said. “The American people will always have the final word.”