Cruz Mounts Fake Filibuster, Calls for D.C. to ‘Listen’

BY Christina Bellantoni  September 25, 2013 at 8:34 AM EST

The Democratic-controlled Senate is on a path toward defeating attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law, despite an overnight talkathon on the chamber’s floor led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

What do green eggs and ham, Liberace and Ashton Kutcher have in common?

They’ve all become entries in the historical record, getting mentions on the Senate floor as conservative Republicans deride President Barack Obama’s health care law, shorthanded as “Obamacare.”

The Morning LineWhen he stood at his desk at 2:42 p.m., Sen. Ted Cruz promised he would talk until he could no longer stand. He was standing to object to a measure that funds the government and also cuts off money for Obamacare. Senate Democrats who control the chamber intend to strip away the health care provision and send it back to the House by the end of the week.

The session led by Cruz, a freshman Texas Republican, was followed by conservatives using #KeepCruzing on Twitter. It stretched beyond 17 hours and was on track to last until noon.

Sure, it’s a fake filibuster. Cruz negotiated the terms of his long talk with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and appeared to have carefully crafted exchanges with friendly lawmakers popping up to give him a respite from speaking. Cruz will have to stop at noon.

But if he is trying to make a point, it’s working.

Senators’ offices were flooded with phone calls Tuesday and the speeches captivated C-Span viewers. (The NewsHour, by the way, has been livestreaming the entire thing.)

The New York Times gets at the internal debate between the group speaking on the floor and Republicans who hate the health care law just as much as Cruz:

Some Senate Republicans suggested a quick vote on a stopgap spending measure could allow the House to attach a measure related to the Affordable Care Act but one that could split Democrats and possibly become law. The obvious target would be a tax on medical devices that helps finance the law, but which has strong opponents in both parties. House Republicans are also considering adding a one-year delay in the individual mandate.

Such procedural niceties carried little weight with the conservative activists backing Mr. Cruz, and the conservative advocacy groups egging them on. Phone lines were jammed by Cruz supporters. Emails flew, encouraged by organizations like the Tea Party Patriots and the Heritage Foundation. The Senate Conservative Fund, a group that has been running advertisements attacking Republicans who are not supporting the “defund Obamacare” effort, called Mr. McConnell and the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, “turncoats.”

But most Republicans showed little fear of a backlash for voting to take up the House bill. “If this is what you wanted, consideration of this bill, I don’t know how you can be against taking it up,” said Senator Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina.

The central argument is that Cruz’s actions will delay an already inevitable vote and leave lawmakers little time to come up with a final deal to avoid a government shutdown after Monday.

“It takes courage,” Cruz said, thanking the handful of lawmakers who joined him on the floor. “This body is no longer a deliberative body. this body is an instrument of political power,” he complained.

Cruz also lamented stories written by reporters covering the process and fact-checkers, and said he wants all of his fellow Republicans to join him in blocking the measure.

“We’re not going to stop talking about this no matter how the vote ends up,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told the near-empty chamber just after 7 a.m.

“We are not fighting here against a president,” Rubio insisted, relieving the Texan for a few moments with a series of questions. Rubio said the group is fighting for the American people, even those who voted for Mr. Obama last fall. He went on to detail how he sees the health care law harming the American dream.

Ed O’Keefe and Paul Kane explain the procedure:

Cruz is permitted to yield to colleagues for long-form questions but cannot not leave the floor or sit while his marathon effort is under way. His most frequent partner was Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who would offer the Texas senator a respite by speaking at times for almost an hour.

As the hours dragged on, Cruz began leaning more on the podium at his desk, which was surrounded by binders and stacks of paper. In case he ever lost his sense of place, a large yellow Post-it note reminded him in blue ink: “Yield only for the purpose of a question. Be careful!”

Wednesday morning, Cruz seemed grateful for the help. He said he was inspired and encouraged by Rubio’s story about the Star Spangled Banner.

“I’m a little bit tired. Senator Mike Lee is a little bit tired,” Cruz said.

As for the bill they are fighting over — the continuing resolution that funds the government from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15 — it’s an evolving piece of legislation.

A first test vote scheduled for late Wednesday morning will set up final passage for late this week. Democrats are poised to change the legislation to fund the government just through part of November, and speed up or force a broader agreement on a longer-term budget. And the New York Times Michael Shear explains here how the Keystone pipeline might end up factoring into this debate over the next few days.

Aides for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wouldn’t speculate Tuesday what will happen after the Senate passes this measure.

The tension in Congress highlights that no one is popular these days. Mr. Obama hasn’t fared well in public opinion polls of late. A Bloomberg National Poll conducted this week found the president’s job approval rating at 45 percent, its lowest level in two years. Approval ratings for the Democratic Party, at 44 percent, similarly hit a two-year low. For the Republican Party, the approval rating has sunk to its lowest ever, at 34 percent.

The Bloomberg poll is the latest in a series of national surveys that have found the president’s favorability sinking among Americans. As Pew Research Center’s director Michael Dimock noted on the NewsHour earlier this month, the president’s approval rating had moved into the negative in Pew’s surveys for the first time in a year and a half during the discussion of attacking Syria for its use of chemical weapons.

Judy Woodruff and Kwame Holman examined the fiscal fights on Tuesday’s NewsHour. Joining Judy in studio were Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner and Robert Draper, who outlined the tea party’s pressure on Republican leadership.

Watch the segment here or below:

Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news on the battle throughout the day and tune in Wednesday night.

LINE ITEMS

  • Mr. Obama pledged Tuesday to use diplomatic activism to work toward a peace agreement for Israel and Palestine. And Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had words of encouragement about possible talks between the U.S. and Iran, especially regarding the latter’s controversial nuclear program.

  • Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown outlines the spectacle of Mr. Obama and former President Bill Clinton appearing together at the Clinton Global Initiative to sell the president’s health care law. Here’s video of the event, which came as new estimates were released about the cost of insurance exchanges.

  • Jeffrey Young writes for Huffington Post that insurance exchanges are ready to go in Rhode Island and California, the largest and smallest states.

  • The Senate Ethics Committee won’t look into Sen. David Vitter’s complaint of “attempted bribery” on the part of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Barbara Boxer.

  • Businessman Dean Young and former State Sen. Sen. Bradley Byrne, who lost the 2010 gubernatorial primary, advanced to a Nov. 5 runoff election to fill a House seat in Alabama.

  • Primaries Tuesday whittled a field of 12 to two: State Rep. Martin Walsh and Councilor John Connolly will face off in the race to replace Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

  • Todd Hughes will be the first openly gay federal circuit judge. He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate Tuesday.

  • A government shutdown doesn’t mean the entire government shuts down, National Journal writes.

  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg defends “a woman’s voice” in this Politico op-ed that praises former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and shares some juicy anecdotes.

  • Politico’s James Hohmann previews the Wednesday debate between Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe. The Washington Post’s Michael Laris and Antonio Olivo have details on the Tuesday debate between the two candidates for lieutenant governor.

  • Kent Cooper reports for Roll Call’s Political Money Line: “During a paid monthlong summer recess, members of Congress reported receiving $1,668,928 in gifts of free travel, the largest monthly total since August 2011. The gifts covered the expenses of 130 trips by members during August. For the year, members of Congress have received $3,346,611 in free travel paid by outside organizations.”

  • BuzzFeed justifies its role in the media marketplace covering the filibuster by sharing all you ever wanted to know about Corner Guy.

  • A Madison, Wis., teacher blogged her students’ political cartoons showing Gov. Scott Walker in jail. The kindergarteners have “very strong feelings about Scott Walker,” the teacher wrote.

  • Samuel L. Jackson criticized Mr. Obama’s speaking style during an interview for the October issue of Playboy.

  • And Bono does a mean impression of Bill Clinton.

  • George W. Bush found this stray cat. His name is Bob, and he has been Instagrammed.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

TOP TWEETS

Joshua Barajas contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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