Republicans seek a strategy to fund the government but not the healthcare law before a possible shutdown. Sen. Ted Cruz’s long speech leaves them less time.

By Lisa Mascaro
September 25, 2013, 6:41 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The collapse of a GOP strategy to halt President Obama’s healthcare law has Republican leaders scrambling to find other ways to dismantle it as part of legislation needed to fund the government in a few days or trigger a shutdown.

Time is not on their side: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has monopolized the floor in his lonely filibuster-like campaign to kill the Affordable Care Act. Patience among Republicans for the renegade senator’s go-it-alone strategy is waning as money for routine government operations is set to run out by Oct. 1.

Republicans huddled again Wednesday after a rare 100 to 0 vote in the Senate to end the first round of debate over a bill that would fund the government but not the healthcare law. Cruz, who had just completed one of the longest speeches in Senate history, urged Republicans to oppose an upcoming motion as part of his effort to stall the bill. He did not attend the strategy session.

“All I know is how it ends: We don’t defund Obamacare,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as he emerged from the private lunch. “Seen this movie before.”

Republicans are in the minority in the Senate, and Democrats have the votes to protect the president’s signature law.

With that endgame understood, Republican leaders want Cruz to wrap up his moment in the limelight so that they can quickly dispatch the legislation back to the House. That would give Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) ample time to attach amendments that would curtail, but not kill, Obamacare.

A do-over could have better results, Republicans argued, if the GOP-led House attached a provision that would be difficult for some Senate Democrats to oppose. Among those being considered: a repeal of the new tax on medical device manufacturers that some Democrats dislike, or a delay of the mandate that all Americans carry health insurance or pay a fine in 2014.

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