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Update at noon ET. It's Over:
Saying that "it's fitting that this debate concludes with a prayer" because he believes Americans are pleading with Congress to defund President Obama's health care law, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas just wrapped up his marathon protest on the Senate floor.
Cruz began speaking just after 2:40 p.m. ET Tuesday and abided by Senate rules when he finished at noon today.
"The pleas from the American people," he said of what he sees as the public's opposition to Obamacare, "are deafening."
With the end of Cruz's talkathon, as we noted earlier, the Senate will proceed to a vote on a bill passed by the Republican-controlled House that would avert a possible government shutdown next Tuesday — but only if Obamacare is defunded. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to strip the provision about Obamacare from the bill and send it back to the House.
Update at 11:45 a.m. ET. The End Is Near?
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has been standing and speaking on the floor of the Senate since just after 2:40 p.m. ET Tuesday, is about 15 minutes away from the end of his marathon protest against President Obama's health care law.
Moments ago, the senator confirmed that he intends to adhere to Senate rules and will end his talkathon at noon ET.
We'll update as he draws to a conclusion.
Our original post and an earlier update follow:
Tea Party conservative Ted Cruz is delivering a long speech in the Senate right now over President Obama's health care law. He began just after 2:40 p.m. ET Tuesday and, with some help from a few other senators, was still going as dawn neared Wednesday.
During his marathon talking session, Cruz is being joined by other Republicans, including Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Cruz has yielded to them for questions, but he is still controlling the debate, which began early Tuesday afternoon. We posted some video of the "bedtime stories" he read to his two daughters — Green Eggs And Ham. Over at The Washington Post's The Fix blog, there are some more highlights.
While Cruz's talkathon has been described as a filibuster, Frank James of NPR's It's All Politics blog explains that term isn't quite exact:
"Cruz wanted Senate Republicans to filibuster the House bill — to stop it in its tracks — unless Senate Democrats agreed to weaken their ability to strip out the unfunding measure. 'I intend to speak until I cannot stand,' he said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
"But it was mostly for show. Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said Cruz's extended Senate floor speech wasn't really a filibuster because the vote to end debate and bring up the House bill would go on as scheduled."
A test vote on the Federal Spending and Health Care Law is scheduled for Wednesday.
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. What Happens Next?
From the Capitol, NPR's David Welna tells us that:
According to the rules of the Senate, Cruz will have to end his address and yield the floor at noon ET when the Senate adjourns. The Senate is then due to immediately reconvene, and one hour later it can proceed to a cloture vote on limiting further debate.