WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Ted Cruz' battle to eradicate the nation's three-year-old health law got off to a shaky start in the Senate on Monday when the Texas lawmaker first blocked action on unrelated items on the agenda, then quickly backed off.
"There will be time" later in the week to debate the health care issue, he told reporters as he left the Senate floor.
At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., arranged for an initial test vote Wednesday on House passed-legislation that would avoid a partial government shutdown on Oct. 1 while simultaneously cancelling funding for the health care law.
A second key vote is set for later in the week as Democrats seek to keep the health care law intact and Cruz and other Republicans resist.
It was unclear why Cruz objected when Reid sought confirmation for four presidential appointees during the day, the kind that are routinely approved without votes in the Senate. Nor did he say why he changed his mind less than an hour later to permit confirmation. The four included two appointments to the Federal Election Commission, one Democrat and one Republican, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and a State Department nominee.
In between, Reid said he has the votes to prevail on the health care issue.
"Any bill that defunds Obama and his health care law is dead on arrival in the Senate," he said.
For its part, the Obama administration spent the day warning of dire consequences unless Congress approves funding beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Medicare beneficiaries could lose their fully-paid annual wellness doctor's visit if funding is cut off, prescription drug costs could rise, and millions of seniors who are enrolled in private Medicare coverage might be required to switch to the traditional fee-for-service coverage to continue receiving health care.
Sebelius also said federal funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program would end on Oct. 1, some Medicaid recipients would lose coverage and Indian health programs would also be affected.
Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.