Washington (AFP) – Most senators expect to pass a stopgap spending bill this week, but one lawmaker is so against it he took to the Senate floor — for 19 hours and counting.
Few knew that Senator Ted Cruz would still be engaged in his talkathon, much less even awake, on Wednesday morning to oppose the temporary budget.
But such is his fierce opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, whose funding is part of the bill, that he held the Senate floor through the night, delivering one of the longest Senate speeches since precise record-keeping began in 1900.
The conservative first-term lawmaker was voicing what he said is America’s deep discontent for the law known as “Obamacare,” and aimed to unite Republicans in opposition to passing a spending bill that does not defund the health care law.
“Why won’t they listen to me?” he asked a near empty chamber late Tuesday, speaking of the refusal by Washington’s “ruling class” to hear his complaints and those of their constituents.
Through the hours, Cruz answered questions by at least nine other senators, including fellow conservatives Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, who back his effort to stall the legislation even at the risk of forcing a government shutdown.
Many Republicans have expressed opposition to the strategy, warning it could backfire and not leave the House of Representatives enough time to consider the Senate measure and either pass it or send back a counteroffer.
But Cruz pressed on with his marathon. “While the Senate slept, men and women of America didn’t get a respite from the nightmare of what is causing them to lose their jobs and never to get hired,” he said.
When Cruz began at 2:41 pm Tuesday, he said: “I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand.”
That carried him into the night, when he gave a dramatic reading of the Dr. Seuss children’s classic “Green Eggs and Ham” around his daughters’ bedtime.
The longest Senate speech on record was a filibuster by Republican Senator Strom Thurmond in 1957, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act.
The most recent lengthy filibuster, a procedural tactic aimed at blocking legislation from moving in the Senate, was by Senator Rand Paul, who in April spoke for nearly 13 hours against U.S. drone policy.
Even though Cruz was calling his speech a filibuster, technically it is not considered one, because his effort will not delay legislation.
According to Senate procedure, lawmakers will still vote mid-day Wednesday to move forward with the temporary budget resolution.