Texas senator reads Green Eggs and Ham on Senate floor in fight against healthcare

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WASHINGTON D.C. -- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, continued his effort on the Senate floor on Wednesday in his battle against the Affordable Care Act.

Cruz and a few others in the Republican caucus took over the floor for, talking for hours and hours.

It began at about 1:40 CT on Tuesday afternoon and continued all evening and all night and into Wednesday morning.

While not an official filibuster, they are taking a stand, with the slim hope of preventing the Senate from taking up the government funding bill passed last week by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. The Democratic-controlled Senate plans to strip a provision that removed funding for Obamacare.

The first key procedural vote will take place shortly after noon CT, regardless of what Cruz does.

"Any senator who votes (to move forward with debate on the House bill) is voting to give Harry Reid the authority to fund Obamacare," Cruz told CNN's Dana Bash on Monday, firing a warning shot at his fellow Senate Republicans.

After he began at around 1:40 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Cruz was alone for nearly an hour. Then Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined him. The tea party allies engaged in an extended dialogue.

Cruz was also joined briefly by other Republican senators: Rand Paul of Kentucky, another tea party favorite, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Rubio.

"How many more Americans will have to see their wages or their hours cut as a result of this ill-conceived law before we do something about this?" Vitter asked.

With more than a little help from friends who took turns speaking while he rested, Cruz showed no sign of stopping.

"How are ya doing?" asked fellow Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, taking the microphone.

"I am doing fabulous," Cruz replied.

"I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand," Cruz vowed Tuesday. "All across this country, Americans are suffering because of Obamacare. Obamacare isn't working."

At one point Tuesday, the Texas senator read the Dr. Seuss children's classic "Green Eggs and Ham" to his daughters as the night wore on.

Supporters cheered him on through social media. #StandWithCruz became one of the most popular hashtags on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/heidi164/status/382858856189014016

But supporters of the health care law made themselves heard as well. On Wednesday morning, the two sides were battling it out in the top trending topic in the United States: "Obamacare."

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a fellow Republican, was at the microphone at the time, ostensibly offering lengthy answers to Cruz's rhetorical questions about how Obamacare may affect the Hispanic community, and whether the law has "made it easier or harder to achieve the American dream."

The event is not a filibuster, a practice made famous by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," when Senate business was brought to a halt through one lengthy, uninterrupted speech. Cruz's speech isn't holding up Senate business.

"This fight is not about any member of this body," Cruz said. "This fight is not about personalities. Look, most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington. Who cares? Almost all of us are in cheap suits with bad haircuts! Who cares?" he said.

There was a sharp exchange with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the first Democrat to question Cruz during his remarks.

But Cruz is also the target of criticism among some top Republicans.

GOP infighting over how best to prevent a government shutdown while defunding Obamacare escalated further Tuesday, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, publicly dismissed Cruz's more confrontational strategy.

"I don't think that filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare," he said on the Senate floor. "All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded, and none of us want that."

Cruz's GOP critics believe his strategy is politically suicidal, arguing there is no way to stop Obamacare as long as Democrats maintain control of the Senate and Obama himself remains in the White House.

They believe that trying to do so by forcing a shutdown -- or preventing an increase in the debt ceiling next month -- will backfire by harming the economy and damaging the Republican brand.

Some Republicans, like McConnell, would at least like the opportunity to force vulnerable Democrats to cast a politically tough vote on the House plan.

Republicans have "a rare opportunity to defund this law with a simple majority," McConnell added. "We should have that vote."

It remains to be seen how much pressure Cruz and his tea party backers will ultimately put on other Republicans. McConnell is up for reelection in 2014, and his conservative GOP primary challenger wasted no time Tuesday blasting the minority leader for opposing Cruz's stance.

"Like so many other crucial fights, Mitch McConnell has caved to Harry Reid on Obamacare and is refusing to fight to defund this disastrous legislation," Matt Bevin said.

"I am proud to support conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz in his fight to defund Obamacare, and I promise the people of Kentucky: I will never cave to Harry Reid."

For his part, Reid argued on the Senate floor that "just as the economy begins to gain steam, some Republicans in Congress seem determined to derail four years of progress."

"They're obsessed with defunding health care," he said. "They're pushing us closer and closer to a government shutdown that would tank the economy."

CNN's Paul Courson, Ted Barrett and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

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