Ted Cruz rose in the Senate early Tuesday afternoon in opposition to the inclusion of funding for the Affordable Care Act in the Senate’s continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
By Wednesday, he was still talking.
“I rise today in opposition to Obamacare,” Cruz said at 2:41:35 p.m., after being recognised on the Senate floor. He declared he would speak “until I am no longer able to stand.”
That’s almost true — he’ll have to stop talking Wednesday around noon whether he is still talking or not. That is when the Senate will have its first procedural vote on its continuing resolution, the bill that keeps the government funded past Sept. 30 and avoids a government shutdown.
Though it’s reminiscent of Rand Paul’s filibuster of CIA director John Brennan’s nomination in March, Cruz is not actually participating in a filibuster — because he doesn’t have any real power to prevent a vote from happening on Wednesday.
“This is not a filibuster,” a Senate Democratic aide said. “Since cloture has been filed, the cloture vote will occur tomorrow no matter how long Senator Cruz speaks. This is not anything tricky, just basic Senate rules.”
Adam Jentleson, the communications director for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the terms of Cruz’s speech were pre-negotiated:
But Cruz embarked on a day full of theatrics that inspired Republicans and grassroots conservatives to rally around him in support.
In the speech’s first hour, Cruz compared his fight to standing up to Nazi Germany in the 1930s, to the British in the Revolutionary War, and the Soviet Union in the Space Race.
“So, we get to Obamacare,” Cruz said. “What do all those voices say? Can’t be stopped. You can’t win. Cannot defund it.
“By any measure, Obamacare is a far less intimidating foe than those that I have discussed, with the possible exception of the moon. The moon might be as intimidating as Obamacare.”
About an hour into his speech, he “took a question” from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has led the fight to defund Obamacare with Cruz. The procedure is meant to give Cruz a break from speaking.
In the hours that followed, Cruz was helped on the floor by eight Republican senators — Lee, David Vitter (R-La.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Along the way, there were moments. A little before 5 p.m., Cruz heaped praise on a
speechby Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards earlier this year. A little after 8 p.m., he
read his daughters — who were watching on C-SPAN — bedtime stories, which included a dramatic reading of the Dr. Seuss classic, “Green Eggs and Ham.” And at various points during his talk-a-thon, Cruz read aloud tweets from Americans who were using various hashtags, such as #MakeDCListen.
Two Democratic senators also stepped to the floor during the marathon to ask Cruz questions — Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
Cruz’s exchange with Kaine was lengthy, and it provided him with his most significant challenge from the Democratic opposition all night. Kaine argued that the issue of Obamacare was settled in the 2012 election. Cruz retorted that both presidential parties almost entered into a “bipartisan agreement” not to run on Obamacare, even though both Obama and Mitt Romney did make the issue big themes in their respective campaigns.
“I very much hope you introduce health care reform legislation,” Kaine said.