Around 5:30 PM EST this evening, Rand Paul joined Ted Cruz on the Senate Floor to discuss the prospect of defunding Obamacare. Cruz began his much-anticipated “filibuster” to overhaul the Affordable Care Act at 2:40 PM this afternoon.
“We should not shut down the government,” Cruz said in response to the Kentucky Senator’s question asking if that was his singular objective. “And I sincerely hope that Senator Reid and President Obama” don’t force a government shutdown either by ignoring the will of the American people.
Asked in a follow-up question by Senator Paul if he was open to negotiating with Democrats — i.e., brokering a “middle ground” compromise short of fully defunding the president’s health care law — Cruz was unambiguous.
“No,” Cruz said emphatically. “Because I have repeatedly told Texans I will not vote for a Continuing Resolution that funds one penny of Obamacare.”
He did note, however, that if Senate Republicans “stand together” they can send a message to the president and Congressional Democrats that the Affordable Care Act is killing jobs, cutting employee work hours, and increasing health care costs.
They were later joined on the Senate Floor by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“Why are Republicans united against Obamacare?” Senator Rubio asked rhetorically upon taking the podium around 6:40 PM. “We are passionate about this opportunity because of the [negative] impact [Obamacare] is having on real people. And at the end of the day that’s what we’re fighting for.”
He also noted that the United States is coming perilously close to losing the very institutions that make it an exceptional nation.
“When we pass bills like Obamacare,” he said, we are hurting the very people we are trying to help. He also called the Affordable Care Act profoundly “unfair,” in part because only those with political connections or deep-seated pockets were able to procure exemptions from the law. Not surprisingly, he continued speaking about the greatness of the free enterprise system and his own parents’ “life-changing” experience moving to the United States, until he eventually relinquished the floor. Senator Cruz, in turn, thanked him for his support.
“Senator Rubio,” he said in all seriousness. “You inspire me.”
update: 10:50pm est
Cruz crusade against Obamacare continues on Senate floor
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor just after 2:41 p.m. on Tuesday, vowing to speak in opposition to Obamacare “until [he] is no longer able to stand.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz reads two bedtime stories to his daughters at home and likens Obamacare to “Green Eggs and Ham”
And speak he did. Cruz read Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” as he wished his children goodnight from the Capitol. He professed his love for White Castle burgers and even commended actor Ashton Kutcher for a recent award show speech. Between the padding, the freshman senator dipped into long monologues about his fierce opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care law.
As he took the floor Tuesday afternoon, Cruz declared, “I rise today in opposition to Obamacare.” But all the posturing amounts to little more than a very, very long speech. The display is not formally considered a filibuster because it is not being used to stop legislation – in this case a bill that would continue to fund the government.
The Senate will still proceed with a vote on Wednesday to take up legislation passed last week by Republicans in the House which would prevent a government shutdown but also contains provisions to stop funding the Affordable Care Act. Cruz is protesting the bill because Senate rules would allow Democrats to strip the part that would defund Obamacare.
“I intend to speak in support of defunding ObamaCare until I am no longer able to stand, to do everything that I can to help Americans stand together,” the hard-charging Texas senator said.
Because of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move Monday to schedule a test vote on government funding for Wednesday morning, Cruz can’t do anything on his own procedurally to delay the timing of that vote.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, talks about difficult situations that Americans have faced during his Tuesday speech on the Senate floor against the Affordable Care Act.
And as Cruz spoke, Reid aide Adam Jentleson tweeted that the Republican “pre-negotiated the terms of his #fakefilibuster with Senator Reid yesterday. Not exactly a Mr. Smith moment.”
When asked how long he planned to speak, Cruz offered a wry response to reporters on Capitol Hill: “We shall see.”
If Cruz managed to keep the least 60 of his fellow senators from supporting that Wednesday vote, he could prevent cutting off debate on the budget bill – and that would be a filibuster.
Cruz wants that procedural vote to fail, because – if the final government funding bill subsequently passed, Democrats would simply strip out the part of the legislation that deals with Obamacare, kicking the clean bill back to the House.
But Cruz has only a few allies in that attempt. Some of those supporters, Republican Sens. Mike Lee, David Vitter, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, Marco Rubio, Jim Inhofe, and Mike Enzi have visited the Senate floor to ask their colleague a question, a tactic that allowed Cruz a temporary break from speaking.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who in March held a 13-hour filibuster, also took to the Senate floor to ask if Cruz would accept any sort of compromise that keeps the government open while revising the health care law.
Republicans “don’t control all the government” Paul said while asking Cruz if he intended to shut down the government.
Cruz said he did not want to shut down the government, but would not be open to a middle ground and “will not vote for a continuing resolution that does not defund ‘Obamacare.'”
Paul actually privately opposed Cruz’s approach to the stopgap spending measure during a meeting with other GOP senators on Tuesday. Sources told NBC News that Paul joined with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to help hasten the return of the spending measure to the House to give colleagues in the lower chamber more time to figure out how to proceed.
But most senior Republicans, including McConnell, will not be coming to Cruz’s aid. They have said they will vote to cut off debate – which would enable Democrats to strip the provision to defund Obamacare, but – more importantly – also allow the process of reaching an agreement to fund the government to move forward.
On that note, Reid said Tuesday that he would seek to move forward with legislation to fund the government through mid-November, a more modest time frame than had initially been sought by lawmakers.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks on the Senate floor Tuesday, vowing to deliver a long speech against the Affordable Care Act.
The political appeal, though, of a long speech – filibuster or no – is undeniable. Paul earned the adulation of conservatives for the filibuster he waged against the Obama administration’s national security practices and its use of drones.
Paul’s effort back in March to hold up the president’s nominee to lead the CIA was the first time the tactic had been used since 2010.
“We saw something incredible happen at that time…and it transformed the debate,” Cruz said Tuesday, commending Paul’s effort.
Cruz, like Paul, has possible designs on the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, and his speech against Obamacare – the program so hated by conservatives – could help endear him to the party’s base.