TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: Ted Cruz was forced off the floor after 21 hours, Harry Reid called it a "waste of time," and the Senate voted unanimously on the most preliminary of steps to set up a cloture-vote showdown later this week. If Reid gets cloture, he'll have a clear path to passing a budget extension that protects Obamacare funding, and the measure will then be sent back to the House. Elsewhere, the Treasury Department handed Congress a deadline of Oct. 17 for raising the debt ceiling, the Obama administration released new information on what Americans will pay for insurance under Obamacare, and the FBI released more information (and video) on the Navy Yard shooting.
BREAKING NOW—A CURVEBALL FROM THE GOP: "Multiple GOP senators tell [National Review's Robert Costa that] House Republicans will likely pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government into early October. 'It'd be a short-term, clean CR,' as one describes the legislation. 'It'd fund the government for one week or so and keep us talking,' says another senator.… House Republican aides say the leadership is still considering several options and would not confirm the report." (Robert Costa, National Review)
WHAT'S NEXT: The Senate is expected to take the key budget vote Friday or Saturday, where Reid will be looking to score 60 votes to get cloture on the resolution. With cloture, Democrats would have all the votes they need to remove the Obamacare defunding provisions from the budget extension, and send the clean version back to the House.
WHO WILL STAND WITH TED? The cloture vote seems likely to pass, but the drama centers on which side GOP senators will take in their party's internal civil war. They can stick with Mitch McConnell and vote for cloture, or they can heed Cruz's call to block any bill that funds the Affordable Care Act, even if that means a government shutdown. Cruz is promising to make life painful for his party mates who vote for cloture, as he has repeatedly promised to tell voters that "a vote for cloture is a vote for Obamacare."
RELIVE THE CRUZ HIGHLIGHTS: National Journal kept a play-by-play blog of Cruz's not-quite filibuster, featuring Nazi references, a feisty exchange with Dick Durbin, a Darth Vader impression ("Mike Lee, I am your father!") and a full reading of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. (Berman/Vasilogambros/Volz, NJ)
TREASURY: MONEY RUNS OUT OCT. 17: "In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned that a single day's net expenditures can be as high as $60 billion. On any given day after that mid-October deadline, money going out might overwhelm money coming in plus cash on hand." (Annie Lowrey, NYT)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE VA. GOV'S DEBATE: Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli II and Terry McAuliffe have their second debate Wednesday night. Here's five things to watch. (Sean Sullivan, WaPo)
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWNS: It has happened 17 times since 1976, for varying reasons, and "not all shutdowns are created equal." (Dylan Matthews, WaPo)
KERRY SIGNS U.N. ARMS TRADE TREATY: "The Obama administration's move is seen as critical to the treaty's success. The U.S. was the 91st country to sign, but the treaty will not take effect until 50 nations have ratified it. Only four had ratified the treaty as of Wednesday…. Many of the world's other top arms exporters have yet to sign and opposition in the Senate, backed by the powerful National Rifle Association, means U.S. ratification will be difficult." (Matthew Lee, AP)
DETAILS OF ACA PREMIUMS EMERGE: "The annual deductible for a midrange 'silver' plan averaged $2,550 in a sample of six states studied by Avalere Health, or more than twice the typical deductible in employer plans…. Americans looking for a health plan in new state insurance markets that open next week will face a trade-off familiar to purchasers of automobile coverage: to keep your premiums manageable, you agree to pay a bigger chunk of the repair bill if you get in a crash." (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP)
BUT PREMIUM COSTS WILL VARY: A report out by HHS "showed significant variation in the insurance premiums" based largely on where someone lives. (Somashekhar/Kliff, WaPo)
NEW FOOTAGE OF NAVY YARD SHOOTER: The FBI released photos and a video of Aaron Alexis stalking the halls of the complex the morning of the shooting. Investigators said they are still researching his background and motivations. (Guardian)
WHITE HOUSE NEPOTISM: The roster of interns working in the president's home is chock-full of sons and daughters of high-profile Washington insiders. (Julia Fisher, TNR)
ROUHANI: The Iranian president's speech at the U.N. "toned down anti-Israel rhetoric and offered up negotiations with the U.S. and its allies over the disputed nuclear program." (Lara Jakes, AP)
KENYA: Al-Shabab, the group behind the Nairobi mall takeover, asserted they buried 137 hostages during "a demolition." The Kenyan government refuted those claims. (Straziuso/Selsky/Odula, AP)
NSA CHIEF: HELP US SPY ON YOU: Keith Alexander beseeched the public to show their support for surveillance programs as Congress considers restrictions. (Brendan Sasso, The Hill)
SYRIA: "More than a dozen key Syrian rebel groups said Wednesday that they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition." (Bassem Mroue, AP)
FOR YOUR COMMUTE: "The story of the conservative movement that has come to dominate the Republican Party over the last four decades is inextricably intertwined with the story of the Heritage Foundation. In that time, it became more than just another think tank. It came to occupy a place of special privilege." (Molly Ball, The Atlantic)