U.S. Senator Cruz speaks into the night against Obamacare
* Marathon attack on Obama's signature achievement
* Cruz vows to speak as long as he can stand
* Must yield to Senate vote later in the day
By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Ted Cruz began on Wednesday the second day of a marathon attack on Obamacare from the Senate floor, but most of his fellow Republicans declined to join the Tea Party favorite.
Standing in the nearly empty Senate chamber shortly past midnight, Cruz spent a ninth straight hour making his case to defund President Barack Obama's landmark overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.
"Obamacare isn't working," said the Texas Republican, who called the president's program the country's "biggest jobs killer."
Republicans agree with Cruz that "Obamacare is a disaster," but most of the 46 Senate Republicans are expected to line up instead with their party leaders in this high-stakes showdown.
Top Republicans want to pass an emergency spending bill by Sept. 30 that would avoid a federal government shutdown.
Cruz, who is supported by the anti-Washington Tea Party movement, wants to block any government funding bill unless it defunds Obamacare.
Polls show most Americans oppose Obamacare, but even more oppose a government shutdown.
Provided Cruz can remain on his feet, he could go on in the Senate for up to another 12 hours before he is silenced in favor of a previously scheduled procedural vote at about midday on Wednesday.
Cruz began talking at 2:41 p.m. EDT (1841 GMT) on Tuesday. His performance had the look of a filibuster, a procedural hurdle used to block legislation. Except in this case, it won't.
Under Senate rules, Cruz must yield the floor by noon EDT (1600 GMT) on Wednesday for a previously scheduled procedural vote.
At that time, Democrats and Republicans are expected to come together and begin moving the government funding bill toward approval, with a final vote likely on Sunday.
As initially passed last week by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the bill would defund Obamacare. But the Senate intends to return the measure to the House without the defunding provision.
The House will have to decide whether to pass the revised bill or find a compromise with the Senate. Unless new funding is quickly approved, a government shutdown would begin on Tuesday.
At this point, it is unclear what the House Republican leadership would do, generating plenty of anxiety among their own members.
A House aide said of her boss: "He is definitely stressed."
The aide said the congressman "doesn't want the government to shut down," but he has been under pressure from conservatives back home to stop Obamacare.
Republicans uniformly want to repeal Obamacare. But many see that as a political impossibility as long as Democrats control the Senate and hold the presidency.
Republicans also fear that they would be blamed for any government shutdown, hurting them in next year's elections.
Club for Growth, a conservative group influential among Republicans, put senators on notice that it expected them to support Cruz's bid and block Democrats from eliminating the provision to defund Obamacare.
But Cruz's fellow Republicans were moving in the other direction one day after the party's top two leaders in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, refused to lend their support to Cruz.
Senator Orrin Hatch, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee that oversees Obamacare, announced he would side with McConnell rather than Cruz.
Senator Lindsey Graham said he expects a majority of the Senate's Republicans to reject Cruz's strategy, which risks a government shutdown.
"I think most Republicans believe, no matter how sincere you are about defunding Obamacare, that this approach would blow up in our face," Graham said.
Once the battle over the government funding bill is resolved, Congress will grapple with another fiscal crisis - a possible and unprecedented U.S. government default unless it agrees to raise the $16.7 trillion U.S. borrowing authority by sometime next month or early November.
Republicans are expected to place demands on any bill to increase the debt limit, including one to delay for a year implementation of Obamacare, now set to begin kicking in next month.
During the day and night, Cruz largely spoke alone.
But he also talked back and forth with a half dozen or so fellow Republicans who came to support him, and a couple of Democrats who challenged him.
Cruz began his pitch with a pledge.
"I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand," he said.
Cruz went on to talk about his father "flippin' pancakes," making "green eggs and ham," "the travesty of Obamacare," and, proudly, about his unpopularity among many fellow Republicans.
Practically every day, he said: "I now pick up the newspaper to learn what a scoundrel I am."
At one point, Cruz halted his attacks on Obamacare to read a couple of bedtime stories to his daughters who he said were watching him on C-Span, a television channel that covers Congress.
"I love my daughters," he said softly.
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