Ted Cruz Is Talking Until He Can't Stand Anymore

National Journal


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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, rose to speak on the Senate floor at 2:41 p.m. on Tuesday. He stood up in opposition to Obamacare, he said. And he said he would continue to speak until he could no longer stand.

By Wednesday morning, Cruz and some of his colleagues were still standing.

It's not a filibuster. But it's looking like it may be a very, very long speech from the Texas senator who has been the center of attention in D.C.'s budget fight, and the Senate leader in a doomed-to-fail movement to strip funding for Obamacare out of any resolution that Congress passes to fund the government. If Congress fails to come to an agreement, the government will shutdown at the end of September.

Ted Cruz stood up to "make D.C. listen," he said repeatedly. "Washington depends on the American people not paying attention."

But what we'll hear during the duration of Sen. Cruz's speech is his view of how to be successful in modern American politics. And, in the reactions to his speech from members of his own party, we may get a sense of just how successful the ambitious senator can be.

We'll update this post with particularly newsworthy bits from here. But in the meantime, you can see a full recap of the first six hours of the Cruz speech below, or watch the speech live up top.

7:13 a.m.: Wow.

So, obviously, we've missed some. But turning on the television at 7 Wednesday morning, we were greeted with a visibly tired Marco Rubio, speaking on the floor, giving Cruz a reprieve. At them moment, Rubio is talking about the business experience of his parents. 

"Some of the greatest heroes in the American story are people you will never learn about," Rubio said. "Some of the greatest heroes in the American story are people who worked hard at jobs, back-breaking jobs, difficult jobs, so their children can have careers."

8:35 pm: A Question from James Inhofe

The Oklahoma senator came aboard for support a little after 8:30.

8:17 pm: A Question From Mike Enzi

The Wyoming Republican joined in with other Republican senators in giving Cruz a break in speaking, especially after his Seussian tour de force. He asked Cruz what, exactly, a continuing budget resolution is.

8:13 pm: "They Did Not Like Green Eggs and Ham, And They Did Not Like Obamacare Either"

Cruz compared the health care law to the Seuss story, which he read in full. Americans "did not like green eggs and ham, and they did not like Obamacare either," he said. "They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse."

8:06 pm: Goodnight, Cruz Children

"The hardest aspect of public service is being away from those little angels," Cruz said of his two daughters at 8 pm. 

Why turn to his daughters at 8 pm? Because that's when, Cruz says, his daughters have turned on C-SPAN. So he's taken the opportunity to read them two bed-time stories.

Cruz read from the Bible, reading "King Solomon's wide words." Things like, "good people are kind to their animals, but a mean person is cruel." And, "we trap ourselves by telling lies, but we stay out of trouble by living right." "Kind words are like honey," Cruz said. "They cheer you up and make you feel strong."

The second item that Cruz read his daughters was, of course, Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham. And yes, he read the whole thing. With feeling.

"I would not could not with a goat," Sen. Cruz read. We assume this is a Senate first.

Cruz concluded, saying "Daddy's going to be home soon, to read to you in person."

7:55 pm: Not a Big Crowd

At least according to The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe:

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7:50 pm: Cruz: Obamacare Is Brutal to Young Americans

In a line that has come up before, and likely will come up again as the GOP aims to win over more young voters, Cruz said that "you could not design a law to do more damage to young people than Obamacare if you sat down and tried."

Cruz didn't just focus on Obamacare here, but on the plight of young Americans throughout the economic recovery. He read off youth unemployment numbers, suggesting that Obamacare could make things worse.

In 2012, Obama crushed Mitt Romney among young people nationally, by a 67 to 30 margin. Obamacare and the specter of privacy-shattering big government, Cruz and other Republicans hope, could be a way to shift those numbers.

7:37 pm: Ted Cruz Has a List

The senator has spent a decent amount of time now reading a list of companies that are limiting employee hours to avoid the having to provide health care. This as we approach five full hours of speaking.

The list, however, does come complete with a few quick jokes about White Castle and Fatburger ("there's truth in advertising")

6:50 pm: Mike Lee Returns

The Utah Republican returned for another question, and to read a letter from a constituent about the ACA.

6:42 pm: Cruz to Rubio: "You Inspire Me"

Cruz called Rubio's comments absolutely right, and said that he "inspires" him. Marco Rubio, Cruz said, is a "critical national leader."

6:37 pm: A Question From Marco Rubio

His question? "Why are we so passionate" about Obamacare?

Rubio's question/speech began with a meditation on America, and what it has meant for him and his family. And then it became a question of whether or not the American Dream is still achievable.

"I think it's time we realized that one of the leading threats to the American Dream are policies that are being pursued at the federal level." 

Rubio answered the passion question himself, before giving Cruz a chance to. "We are passionate about this opportunity we have to stop Obamacare because of the impact it has on real people."

The biggest political question for America now, says Rubio, is whether or not America can continue to be exceptional, or if it will just become like everyone else.

Rubio is, as yet, the most mainstream Republican senator to join Cruz on the floor. He's the sixth to ask a question. He's also the third of the possible 2016 GOP contenders, joining Cruz and Paul. Again, this speech likely won't change the course of Obamacare. But it could be one of the most prolonged demonstrations of the new course of the Republican party.

"We could be here all night," Rubio said.

6:21 pm: Jeff Sessions All In on Cruz

In his final question, Sessions said that he will oppose any advancing of a budget that doesn't "provide some change in this Obamacare legislation." He further said that he intends to support Cruz. 

6:18 pm: Ted Cruz on the "Muzzled" Senate

Lambasting Majority Leader Reid's plan for amendments on a budget resolution, Cruz said that Reid is effectively setting up a situation where "the other 99 senators are muzzled." "That's a sign of a Senate that's not working," Cruz said. "There should be open debate and open amendments."

6:15 pm: The Questions

While we may not be getting too much substance from the questions that (so far) five senators have asked Sen. Cruz, they do make an important point. At the very least, these are five Republican senators who have Cruz's back, and who aren't afraid of showing as much on the Senate floor. Five senators isn't necessarily an intimidating coalition, but they show that even with the public feuding between Cruz and the GOP establishment this week, he still has some support. Even if it's coming from the fringes.

6:08 pm: Cruz on the Boom of Government Business

Sen. Sessions asked Cruz about a percieved increase in workers in Washington because of the growth of government and the ACA. "One of the disturbing trends we've seen in recent years," Cruz said, "is the boom in the business in government."

In reality, however, there has been a prolonged drop in public sector employment over the last several years.

6:01 pm: 'The Target Is Obamacare'

Sen. Cruz tried to make the point that he's not trying to go after his fellow congressional Republicans with his stand, or Democrats for that matter. "It is my hope, my fervent hope, that the voices of dissension within the Republican caucus will stop firing at each other and start firing at the target," he said. "I don't want us to start firing at the Democrats or the president."

Instead, he said, "the target is Obamacare." With all of the rhetorical volleys that have come Cruz's way in the last week, it's hard to see how easily he'll be able to just smooth over tension within the Republican caucus.

5:52 pm: A Question From Jeff Sessions

The Alabama Republican got the floor temporarily from Cruz for a question. The number of Cruz supporters is steadily rising, four hours into the speech. 

The question: "If there's a single-payer, who will the payer be?"

Cruz's answer? "The government, which ultimately means the taxpayer."

5:45 pm: Cruz on the March to Socialized Health Care

Responding to a question from Sen. Pat Roberts, Ted Cruz said that the Kansas senator is "absolutely right" in suggesting that the Affordable Care Act is the first step towards socialized health care. "Its intended purpose is to unavoidably lead us down that path," Cruz said.

"When Obamacare collapses in shambles it'll take down the private health insurance system with it, leaving nothing left."

5:42 pm: A Question From Pat Roberts

Cruz yielded the floor to the Kansas Republican a bit before six. His question: "Is this not the first step towards socialied healthcare?"

5:41 pm: Ted Cruz Answers Rand Paul on a Government Shutdown

"I will go to my grave in debt to Rand Paul," Sen. Cruz opened in response to a question from Rand Paul. The admiration between the two senators was on obvious display, including in Ted Cruz's admission that he was not wearing his famed argument boots. 

But, to Rand's question as to whether or not Sen. Cruz would like to shut down the government and block a budget from being passed. "We should not shut down the government," Cruz said. "We should fund every bit of the government. Every aspect of the government. One hundred percent of the government except for Obamacare." Cruz continued:

Let me be absolutely clear we should not shut down the government and I sincerely hope that Sen. Reid and President Obama did not force a government shutdown simply to force Obamacare on the American people.

Cruz also pushed against the idea of accepting some kind of budget compromise. Why not? "Because I've committed publicly over and over to the American people that I will not vote for a continuing resolution that funds one penny of Obamacare."

Congress' odds of passing a budget that defunds Obamacare are incredibly slim. The chance that Obama wouldn't veto such a budget, slimmer. Realistically, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul know this. What they may not know is what exactly a solution looks like that prevents a government shutdown.

5:31: Rand Paul Enters

It begins. The Kentucky Republican opened with some advise for Ted Cruz, from one long-speech-giver to another. "Try not to eat on television," he said. "Sometimes that shows up."

Sen. Paul praised the idea of lengthy oratory, saying that he thinks that what the American people would like to see is for politicians to stand up and say what they believe in, what they'd like the country to look like.

"How are we going to get to dialogue without somebody standing up and saying enough's enough?"

And Paul's question for Ted Cruz? Whether or not the Texas senator would like to shut down the government.

5:20 pm: Letter Time

Cruz turned to letters from small business owners from across the country as he finished the third hour of his speech. The letters describe the burden some employers feel of the health care law, which requires them to provide coverage for full time employees.

It does seem, however, like reading time will shortly end. Sen. Rand Paul tweeted just a few minutes ago that he's headed to the floor. And he might be bringing candy.

5:10 pm: Paging Sen. Paul

Around 4:30, Rand Paul tweeted out his implicit support of Cruz's stand:

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The Hill reports that Sen. Paul is expected to join Cruz on the SEnate floor sometime this afternoon. We don't yet know when that will happen, how long it will last, or what Paul will say.

Cruz referenced Sen. Paul's earlier drone filibuster Tuesday evening, saying "I remember when Sen. Paul began that filibuster. Many members in this body viewed what he was doing as curious if not quixotic." He continued: "The American people got engaged, got informed. And it transformed the debate."

5:05 pm: A Pre-Planned Speech

According to Harry Reid's communications director, Sen. Cruz pre-negotiated the terms of his Tuesday speech with the majority leader on Monday.

4:51 pm: Praising Ashton Kutcher

Sen. Cruz took a moment to highlight a speech that actor Ashton Kutcher made at the Teen Choice Awards this summer. The speech was something that's easy for people to get behind. "I believe that opportunity looks a lot like work," Kutcher said in the speech.

He's not the only conservative to hop on the speech. Sarah Palin previously called it "heartfelt." Glenn Beck called it "incredibly insightful." Cruz himself had earlier called it "remarkable" on Twitter. You can see it here.

4:44 pm: Personal History

A little after 4:30, Ted Cruz began to speak about his father's experience of "being beat and almost killed in Cuban jail," and his own family history. The full Cruz story, as written recently in GQ, makes for a fascinating read.

Speaking slightly earlier about poverty in America, Cruz brought up an interesting political comparison:

I didn't agree with a lot of things that John Edwards said as a political candidate, but I actually agreed with that notion that there are two Americas.

Cruz spoke wove hs father's history into this idea, and how his family was able to come up in America.

Understandably, Cruz got a little off the broader point of politics here, saying things like "my father invented green eggs and ham," and then talking about his love of the book.

But as weird and random as this might sound, Cruz is also attempting to do something that Rand Paul pulled off (to an extent) in his spring filibuster. He's introducing himself to the country. Obviously most people in America aren't glued to C-SPAN right now, but bet on seeing these clips of Sen. Cruz talking about his family and his early life floating around in the coming years.

One side of his father's history hasn't (at least so far) come up in Cruz's Senate speech. In the 1980s, Cruz's father's oil business fell with the lowering oil prices, and he went bankrupt. Cruz spoke about this time to GQ:

My father poured all of my parents' personal assets into the company, and demand for oil and gas exploration just disappeared, because oil prices dropped so low. There's a whole generation of people in the energy industry at that time that just lost everything.

4:33 pm: Obamacare Is a Rule for the Little People

Sen. Cruz has spent much of the last dozen or so minutes speaking out against the exemptions the White House has issued for Obamacare. Mark my words, he said, if Obamacare goes into effect "you will see an exemption for labor unions." Summoning Leona Helmsle, Cruz called the law a rule for the "little people."

As Ezra Klein writes at WonkBlog, the odds of actually seeing a labor exemption aren't looking too hot.

4:22 pm: The Democrats Come to the Attack

On Twitter at least. You can see the full Twitter reactions at bottom.

4:12: Defending Vitter

Following a quick question from Louisiana Republican David Vitter, Ted Cruz launched into a defense of David Vitter's proposed amendment that would require lawmakers and others to no longer get federal subsidies for their health insurance.

"I want to commend Senator David Vitter for shining a light on basic fairness," said Cruz. Although Cruz later did note that there could be some consequences if some people in Congress lose their subsidies:

If the Vitter Amendment passes, if Congress is subject to the same rules of the American people, there might be a few congressional staffers that tender their resignation.

4:03: Getting to Work

Sen. Cruz has spent a decent portion of his speaking time since returning from a question break devoted to the idea that Obamacare is a job killer. "Some politicians suggest people in this country are lazy, don't want to work," he said. "I think Americans want to work."

"Why aren't people able to get jobs? Because Obamacare is killing jobs." And with that, Senator Cruz yielded for a quick question from Lousiana Republican David Vitter.

And, at least so far, the idea that Obamacare is a giant job killer hasn't really borne out.

3:57 pm: Cruz Returns, With History

The senator came back from Sen. Lee's questioning a little before 4. And he came to give a history lesson about mankind's struggle for freedom. 

"If you look at the history of government in the world, it hasn't been pretty," he said. "It has been a story of oppression. A story of rulers imposing their rule on their subjects."

Cruz suggested that the U.S. hasn't been working on the proper side of this history. "For some time the United States has not behaved as if each of us collectively have 300 million bosses." But, he hopes, this week of making D.C. listen will change that. ""The most important objective this week is to reassert that sovereignty lies with We the People."

3:48 pm: Hashtags

Senator Cruz is tweeting from the Senate floor. Or at least someone is on his behalf:

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The Twitter love is at least starting to come in from House Republicans, like Oklahoma's Jim Bridenstine and Texas' Steve Stockman. Nothing yet from the Senate.

3:37 pm: Question Time

Without yielding the floor, Sen. Cruz elected to take a question from his friend and ally, Utah Republican Mike Lee. "How many more Americans will have to lose their jobs before Congress acts?" he asked. The questions are playing a similiar role to the ones Lee lobbed at Rand Paul during his epic drone filibuster. They give Cruz a minute to catch his breath.

3:35 pm: What's a "Flying Flip?"

The senator said that most Americans "could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians." He continued, "almost all of us are in cheap suits and bad haircuts. Who cares?"

We don't know exactly what a "flying flip" is, but we can take a guess at what the senator was getting at.

In all seriousness though, this is another sign of what the overriding theme of this speech has been to this point. It's not really about health care. Policy hasn't been mentioned. It's about what Ted Cruz sees as the incredible failings of the U.S. Congress, a body he thinks won't listen to average Americans.

If Ted Cruz had already lost a lot of friends in the Senate this week, this speech sure won't do anything to help him. How it plays with a grassroots community that he's aiming for for a possible 2016 run though? We'll have to wait and see on that one.

3:28 pm: Against Cocktail Parties

So says the senator:

Mr. President, it is apparently very, very important to be invited to all the right cocktail parties in town. At the end of the day we don't work for those holding cocktail parties in Washington D.C. We don't work for the intelligensia who live in cities and write editorials for big newspapers. We work for the American people.

Cocktail parties are stereotypically endemic in Washington D.C., a symbol for an elitist culture gone awry. But it's a trope that doesn't always ring so true with the new reality where many members of Congress are hesitant to cross party lines--even for drinks.

Cruz, for his part, has had some issues with elitism this week. A profile of the senator in GQ presented the Harvard and Princeton graduate as someone who didn't associate with people from the "lesser Ivies."

3:20 pm: Another Kind of Insurance

Playing off the idea of health insurance, Cruz said that his fight against Obamacare is "about insuring that the American people have a voice." Because, get it, puns. He continued, saying it's about:

insuring that those who are struggling, those who are without a job, those who are afraid about losing their health insurance, that Washington listens to them. That Washington acts on their needs.

3:15 pm: The Rest of the Senate Needs to Get to Work

Cruz doesn't think he should be the only guy on the floor speaking for hours about the Affordable Care Act. "We oughtta have all 100 senators on this floor around the clock" until the law is no more, said the senator. 

And he hit his coworkers on their priorities: "The Senate floor is largely empty. Everyone's schedules are apparently busy enough that standing up against Obamacare doesn't make the priority list." Cruz later pointed to the lack of senators attending his speech as being part of the reason why Congress has such a low approval rating.

"Anyone who wants to know why this body is held in low esteem only has to look out to the empty chairs," he said. And his remarks for his colleagues got a bit more personally biting from there:

There's a tendency as time goes on to view your constituents as an annoyance. In the private sector if your boss picks up the phone and calls, I suspect neither you nor I sat at the computer and played Solitaire.

We'll be looking for a response from Senator McCain.

3:10 pm: Nazis

If you were betting on a WWII appearance within the first hour of Cruz speaking, you're in luck! The senator compared people (namely, pundits) who say that his attempt to stop or defund Obamacare can't be done to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler and the Nazis. 

Cruz did admit that there have been some historical obstacles that have proved as daunting to overcome as the Affordable Care Act: "The moon might be as intimidating as Obamacare."

3:05 pm: It's Time For Analogies

For any long, extemporaneous speech, some odd cultural references are likely to sneak in. Just 20 minutes in, Cruz has already mentioned the Little Engine the Could and professional wrestling.

A little before 3:00, Cruz compared the United States Congress to a very different body: World Wrestling Entertainment. "It's wrestling matches where it's all rigged," he said. "The outcome is predetermined, and it's all for show."

As for the engine, the Texas senator said that if that Little Engine tried to bring its "I think I can" attitude to Congress, he'd be in for a sorry surprise. "That little engine can't," Cruz said. Presumably, in this analogy, Ted Cruz takes on the persona of the train. If that helps clear anything up for how you view the 113th Congress.

Twitter Responses From Congress:

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And, of course:

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Cautious prediction: the not-very-clever filibuster puns aren't going away. But Rep. Mark Takano at least gets some credit for the design effort:

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And, as we highlight above, Sen. Cruz has his fair share of Republicancongressionalsupporters on Twitter, too.

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