Texas Sen. Ted Cruz completed an all-nighter speech on the Senate floor going into Wednesday morning, more than 19 hours that included quotes from 'Dr. Seuss' and the popular show 'Duck Dynasty' to make his case against funding Obamacare.
"When Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham and they did not like Obamacare either. They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse. It is not working."
- Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas (R)
But despite Cruz's and other conservative Republicans' attempts to delay a must-pass spending bill, the Democratic-controlled Senate is virtually sure to pass a test vote on that legislation planned for later Wednesday.
"It’s a late night," the Cuban American legislator said at around 1:30 a.m.. "I’m going to venture to say most members of the United States Senate are in home in bed, asleep, while America lives the nightmare."
At issue is a temporary spending bill required to keep the government fully open after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Hard-charging conservatives like Cruz see the measure as an opportunity to use a must-pass measure to try to derail Obama's signature health care law.
The House-passed measure is required to prevent a government shutdown after midnight Monday and contains a tea party-backed provision to "defund" implementation of what's come to be known as "Obamacare". Cruz is opposed to moving ahead on it under debate terms choreographed by Democrats to defeat the Obamacare provision.
Under pressure from Cruz and tea party activists, House GOP leaders added the anti-Obamacare language to the funding measure despite fears it could spark a partial government shutdown that could hurt Republicans in the run-up to midterm elections next year — just as GOP-driven government shutdowns in 1995-96 help revive the political fortunes of President Bill Clinton.
"I just don't believe anybody benefits from shutting the government down, and certainly Republicans don't," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "We learned that in 1995."
It is important to note that Cruz is not performing a true filibuster because no matter how long Cruz speaks, the "cloture" vote on Wednesday will happen regardless because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada filed a cloture petition on Monday and Senate rules dictate that a cloture vote takes place one day and one hour later. The Senate will automatically adjourn at noon Wednesday, come back into session and hold the cloture vote at around 1 p.m.
That "cloture" vote is crucial because it would allow top Senate Democrat Reid to kill the Obamacare provision on a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes often needed for victory in the Senate. Democrats control the chamber with 54 votes.
'Green Eggs and Ham' to Duck Dynasty
Cruz took the floor at 2:41 p.m. Tuesday, vowing to speak until he's "no longer able to stand." He filled the time in a largely empty chamber, criticizing the law and comparing the fight to the battle against the Nazis. He talked about the Revolutionary War, the Washington ruling class and his Cuban-born father who worked as a cook.
The mechanics of advancing the bill were overshadowed by Cruz's filibuster-like speech, which included a reading of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" to his daughters back home in Texas.
"When Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham and they did not like Obamacare either," Cruz said. "They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house or with a mouse. It is not working."
Soon after 3 am Lee began quizzing Cruz on Jeopardy-like questions such as how long the 100 year's war lasted (116 years), what color a purple finch is (crimson), what a camel-hair brush is made out of (squirrel fur) and where a Panama Hat comes from (Ecuador).
The overnight debate included some other diversions including "Duck Dynasty."
“Redneck rule number one – most things can be fixed with duct tape and extension cords," Cruz said, which got a laugh from the crowd in the Senate gallery at around 1 a.m.
Lee discussed a childhood accident in which his foot was run over by a car driven by his father. Cruz recalled his first Christmas dinner with his future wife's vegetarian parents, which he described as "just like any other Christmas dinner except the entree never comes."
Despite his tenacity, it seemed Cruz would not surpass the longest Senate speech on record, a 24-hour, 18-minute filibuster by South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond against the civil rights act in 1957.
Senate rules required the chamber to have an initial vote on the spending bill by early Wednesday afternoon — a roll call that would end Cruz's remarks short of the record.
Republicans Split on Cruz Tactics
Republican leaders and several rank-and-file GOP lawmakers had opposed Cruz's time-consuming effort with the end of the fiscal year looming. They fear that Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans won't have enough time to respond to the Senate's eventual action.
Missing from the debate were top Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Cruz's home-state GOP colleague John Cornyn, both of whom say they will vote later this week to cut off debate on the funding bill.
"I think we'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill that we're in favor of," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. "And invoking cloture on a bill that defunds Obamacare ... strikes me as a no-brainer."
If Cruz employs all of the delaying tactics at his disposal, the Senate might not vote to pass the measure until Sunday. But with the fiscal year set to expire at midnight Monday, McConnell warned that extended delays could hamper the GOP-controlled House's ability to send a pared-down measure back to the Senate in time to try to salvage some kind of victory, perhaps on a bipartisan proposal to eliminate a new Obamacare tax on medical devices.
Cruz's effort doesn't have a chance to succeed, however, both because Senate rules are working against him and because many of his GOP colleagues think his quixotic effort combines poor strategy with political grandstanding at the expense of other Republicans. Some of Cruz's leading allies include organizations like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth that frequently give financial help to conservatives challenging more moderate Republicans in primaries.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.