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 through Wednesday, as long as it goes on. At some point, the senator will have to give up the floor for voting. That's expected to happen around noon.
11:56 a.m.: Ted Cruz's Afternoon Plans
Apparently, there's a chance Ted Cruz may have some other arrangements that'll force him to leave the floor by noon.
Ted Cruz is going to be on Rush Limbaugh today at 1 p.m.— Ellen Carmichael (@ellencarmichael) September 25, 2013
Limbaugh's website confirms this.
11:54 a.m.: A Question From James Risch
The Idaho Republican joined the floor for the first time as noon approached. If Cruz ends at noon, he'll have held the floor for 21 hour and 19 minutes.
11:49 a.m.: A Question From Mike Lee, and a Question of Time
Cruz allowed Sen. Mike Lee to ask a question as the clock ticked down. But it's not totally clear at this point when exactly Cruz will stop talking. At noon, as Reid made clear, the Senate will begin a new day of business with a prayer. But after that point, at least according to Reid, Cruz should be able to speak for another hour. So far, Sen. Cruz has not shown any sign that he accepts that premise.
Following the question from Lee, Cruz went back to his guiding point: "For too long, Washington has not listened to the American people."
"Single moms," Cruz said, "are calling out to the United States Senate, fix this train wreck, fix this disaster."
"Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate is closed for business."
11:44 a.m.: Harry Reid: "This Is Not a Filibuster"
"This is an agreement he and I made," Reid said. Cruz then objected to the majority leader continuing to speak on the floor.
"If the majority leader is going to cut off and muzzle us in another 24 minutes," Cruz said, "then at this point I don't think it is appropriate to allow the majority leader to consume that time."
Reid later interjected, asking if Cruz would allow Sen. John McCain to speak for 15 minutes. "I will honor the Senate rules and allow my time to expire at noon," Cruz said. Cruz then refused to yield to the majority leader for a parliamentary inquiry.
Cruz then did agree to yield to Reid for a question. "You don't seem to understand you have time until 1 after the morning prayer," Reid said, asking if he would then agree to consent to a question from John McCain after the prayer.
At that point, Cruz yielded to Sen. Jeff Sessions for a question, which turned into a back-and-forth between the two.
11:35 a.m.: Thank Yous
Just like at the conclusion of any long, televised speech, Ted Cruz ran off a list of Congressional staff that he wanted to think for their work during the long speech.
Cruz also thanked the senators who presided during the speech, and the Republican senators who came to the floor to ask questions.
And he made "special note" of Rep. Louie Gohmert who stayed on the floor all night watching his speech.
Cruz also called out Utah's Mike Lee, saying "we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Sen. Lee's principle, for his courage, and for his bravery under fire." And last, Cruz said, he wanted to thank the American people who have been engaged in the health care debate, and watched the speech over CSPAN.
"And with those thank yous," Cruz said, "I would note that Sen. Grassley wanted to ask a question." But, instead, Cruz was asked by Reid to yield to him instead. Which Cruz obliged.
11:30 a.m.: Harry Reid Arrives on the Floor
While Sen. Cruz described his consent requests, the Senate Majority Leader appeared on the floor. Cruz said that, as he understands it, he has 30 minutes left to speak. We'll see where this goes.
Cruz asked Reid if he would be able to speak for longer. It appeared that, off camera, Reid told Cruz he could not. "I'm without a question," Reid said.
11:27 a.m.: By the Numbers
While Cruz is still speaking, a look at the Congressional Record for Tuesday, until midnight, shows that he and some of his colleagues have repeated some words in excess—which happens when you talk for over 20 hours. Here are some of the numbers:
"Obamacare" – 543, "Affordable Care Act" – 4, "Green eggs and ham" – 15, "Small businesses" – 76, "Make DC listen" – 26, "Listening" – 68, "American" – 420, "Insurance" – 222, "Washington" – 124, "Daddy" – 2, "Constitution" – 19, "Texas" – 80, "My friend" – 35, "The senator from" – 73.
11:23 a.m.: The Cruz-Durbin Back-And-Forth Continues
"The Senator from Illinois made an action impugning my motives," Sen. Cruz said. Things are getting testy.
Answering Cruz's question about Hoffa, Durbin said that Senate Democrats have been unable to fix "anomalies" in the Affordable Care Act because Congressional Republicans have not worked with Democrats, preferring to see the law "descend into chaos."
Senator Durbin then asked Cruz if he still believes that the provision of the ACA that forbids barring patients with pre-existing conditions from receiving insurance. Cruz responded saying that the Congress should repeal the entirety of Obamacare, and then work to fix specific problems.
Cruz tried to cut Durbin off, saying that "we are operating on some time constraints." "I recognize the passion of the senator from Illinois," Cruz said, "but I have not yielded the floor."
11:17 a.m.: Durbin to Cruz: Do You Want to Abolish a Program That Will Provide People With Health Care?
Sen. Durbin told the story of a woman named Judy, who would be able to recieve health care for the first time under Obamacare. Cruz responded to Durbin's question, saying that this specific woman should be able to get care, "but in my view any health care reform should empower citizens to take consultation with their physicians and not have any government bureaucrat get in the way of them and their doctor."
Cruz then asked Durbin if he believed Teamsters President James Hoffa is right to say that Obamacare will "destroy" health care for Americans.
11:10 a.m.: Will Harry Reid Come to the Floor?
Ted Cruz, speaking to an off-camera Dick Durbin, asked if Sen. Durbin could ask the Senate majority leader to come to the floor in order for Cruz to propose a series of unanimous consent requests.
Durbin responded, saying that he could not speak for the majority leader, and that Reid will do as he likes. The Illinois Democrat made it clear that he found the request surprising, and then went back to a conversation from last night about the health care exchanges.
10:43 a.m.: A Question From Marco Rubio
The Florida Republican returned to the floor to give Cruz a break Wednesday morning.
10:27 a.m.: Reading Limbaugh
"Fans of Rush Limbaugh know that ever year he reads something that his father wrote," Cruz said. The Texas senator then proceeded to read the story from the radio host's father. That can be read in full here.
10:10 a.m.: Cruz's Pitch to Democrats
"Bucking your party's leadership inevitably provokes a reaction. Inevitably provokes expressions, and often strong expressions of displeasure," Cruz said. He continued:
But let me also encourage any Democrats, there are worse things in life than a few harsh words being tossed your way. To be honest, that pales in comparison to the working men and women of this country who are suffering, who are losing their jobs, who are losing their health care, who are being forced into part-time work.
Of course, Cruz knows a thing or two about bucking party leadership. This is an area where the freshman senator speaks with some experience.
From there, Cruz yielded for a question from David Vitter.
10:02 a.m.: Steve Stockman on the Offensive
Lending support for Cruz over Twitter, the Texas congressman drew a stretch of a parallel between Cruz and Obama:
Ted Cruz stayed up all night to fight ObamaCare. Obama went to bed while Ambassador Stevens was being murdered.— Rep. Steve Stockman (@SteveWorks4You) September 25, 2013
10:00 a.m.: The Cruz Media Blackout
Cruz may have talked all night, but the national media for the most part ignored the speech—or at least didn't give it front-page treatment this morning. He did, however, get major play in newspapers from his home state, like the Dallas Morning News or Houston Chronicle. Here's a compilation of some newspapers from across the country.
9:56 a.m.: The Endgame
"I can't win. There's no way I can win," Cruz said. But, he said, when it comes to ultimatelydefeating Obamacare "I have faith in the American people."
What Cruz gets wrong here, though, is that Americans oppose defunding Obamacare if it means shutting down the government. And if that's what this endgame looks like in the short-term, support for Cruz could erode.
9:30 a.m.: The Fourth Longest Senate Speech
Sen Ted Cruz R-TX now owns the fourth longest Senate floor speech, passing Sen Robert La Follette Sr (18 h 23 m)— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) September 25, 2013
9:19 a.m.: A Question From James Inhofe
The Oklahoma Republican, who has spent much of the last day on the floor with Cruz, gave the Texas senator a brief reprieve for a question about single-payer health insurance, and whether or not that was Harry Reid's goal all along.
Unsurprisngly, at this point we are getting a decent number of repeats of statements that were made last night. That's, by his own admission, what Sen. Inhofe is doing right now in his statement on Hillary Clinton's health care push in the '90s. But gotta imagine it's nearly impossible to come up with 17 hours of original spoken content.
Of course, there's a big difference between Hillarycare and Obamacare. Congress passed Obamacare. One of them became a law. The other didn't.
9:05 a.m.: Cruz: Towards a Senate With 10 Bernie Sanders
Senator Cruz suggested he would prefer to have a Senate with 10 Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and 10 Mike Lees, R-Utah, than what we have now. The implication here being that, in Cruz's mind, while Sanders is not quiet about his far-left views, other Democrats may be hiding their true beliefs.
With that, back to reading Atlas Shrugged.
8:59 a.m.: Cruz Reads Ayn Rand
A little before 9, the senator began to read from Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Cruz has previously referred to the author as one of his all-time heroes.
8:53 a.m.: Ted Cruz: I'm Not Hip
Comparing himself to Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, Senator Cruz said that he is not hip. That he can't attract people with earrings and Birkenstocks. But, he says, he can still quote Ashton Kutcher. "I will take it as a given that there is no politician on the planet who qualifies as cool."
As he did on Tuesday, Cruz decided to cite from Ashton Kutcher's Teen Choice Awards speech. Video of the speech itself, and some background on it, can be found below.
"Always be sexy," Cruz said, quoting Kutcher. "I salute that message."
8:50 a.m.: Cruz and Paul: Obama Should Be on Obamacare
Extending the princple of David Vitter's amendment, both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz spoke on the floor about how the president should be subject to his health care law.
"I think the president should take it," Paul said. "I think Justice Roberts should take it … If he's going to take that intellectual leap to justify Obamacare, then he should take it."
8:45 a.m.: Cruz Does His Best Darth Vader
Okay, we're getting a little delirious here. Comparing Washington D.C. to the empire and the movement against Obamacare as the "rebel alliance," Cruz tried to pull off a Star Wars analogy. That includes putting on his best growl and saying, "Mike Lee. I am your father."
"Just like in the Star Wars movies, the Empire will strike back." But, at the end of the day, Cruz said, "I think the rebel alliance, the people, will prevail."
8:42 a.m.: Paul: Come on Down, Chief Justice Roberts
"Justice Roberts loves Obamacare so much that I'm proposing Justice Roberts trot on down" and sign up for the exchanges, Rand Paul said on the floor Wednesday morning. Paul also knocked Obamacare's mandates, saying that "when you hear the word 'mandate,' that's not freedom. That's government telling you have to do something."
Paul also got in a bit of a zinger on the authors of the Affordable Care Act:
The people who gave you Obamacare are not bad people. They have big hearts, but sometimes, I think, not big brains.
"If you can't sell free health care," Paul said, "there must be a problem with it."
His question for Cruz: Do you see an opening for compromise with the president on the Affordable Care Act?
Cruz's answer? Absolutely. Although, again, it's actually very, very hard to imagine Obama agreeing to any of Cruz's proposed changes to Obamacare. Especially where funding is concerned.
8:33 a.m.: How This Is Working Out for Cruz So Far
According to Google Trends, Cruz is breaking into some unfamiliar ground for a junior senator:
So that's Sen. Cruz, killing Joseph Gordon-Levitt, not quite beating out Marvel's new T.V. show in terms of search interest Wednesday morning. But when you ask yourself why exactly Ted Cruz is spending so much time speaking, especially when it's not even for an actual filibuster and he's very unlikely to get any of what he wants on Obamacare, it's worth keeping this chart in mind.
8:23 a.m.: Rand Paul Returns to the Floor
"The president wants 100 percent of Obamacare, as he wrote it, as Democrats wrote it, with no Republican input," Sen. Paul said. What's difficult with this statement, and with much of what Paul and Cruz have said over the last day, is that the Affordable Care Act was of course passed by Congress. And Republicans were given opportunity to offer input on the law, even though in the end none of them actually voted for it in the Senate.
8:11 a.m.: Cruz's Obamacare Amendments
Answering a question from Pat Roberts, Cruz said he would support repealing the medical device tax and Sen. David Vitter's subsidy amendment, which Vitter discussed on the floor with Cruz on Tuesday.
"Different rules should not apply to Washington that apply to the American people," Cruz said.
Cruz also suggested support for removing authority from the IRS, and delaying the individual mandate--which would likely effectively gut the health care law. He then yielded for another question/statement from Pat Roberts.
8:02 a.m.: Cruz's Lions
Calling Roberts an "old lion" of the Senate, Cruz said it was a "big, big deal" to have the Kansas Republican's support on the floor. "It is one thing for the young turks, it was one things for those who have been dubbed the wacko birds" to be on the floor. But, Cruz said, having the support of some of these more senior Senators makes a difference.
Of course, it's worth noting, Senate Republican leadership hasn't been rushing to Cruz's side so far. And Cruz's co-senator from Texas, Minority Whip John Cornyn, didn't have kind words for Cruz on Tuesday.
7:52 a.m.: A Question From Pat Roberts
Roberts, who admitted to not sticking through the whole night, appeared on the floor Wednesday morning with a particularly loose tie and a question for Sen. Cruz.
Roberts' comments weren't about Obamacare directly, but rather about how the Senate amendment process is currently working, particularly in regards to the Farm Bill. Roberts asked Cruz what kinds of amendments he would like to offer on a budget resolution that would impact Obamacare.
7:47 a.m.: Cruz on the Exceptions
Sen. Cruz again claimed that, unless it is defunded, labor unions will eventually be exempted from Obamacare. "I believe if it doesn't apply to everyone, it shouldn't apply to anyone," he said. Although, as bears repeating, there's not much reason to think that claim will actually come true.
"You have nothing to worry about if you have several high-paid lobbyists" at your call, Cruz said.
Cruz also compared Obamacare to the "socialized medicine" of Cuba. Getting a dig in on Michael Moore, Cruz said that "I'm not aware of one person getting on a raft from Florida and heading over to Cuba."
Cruz then yielded to a question from Kansas' Pat Roberts.
7:43 a.m.: Rubio on Hispanics and the American Dream
Marco Rubio, giving Cruz another break, spoke on why the American Dream resonates with the Hispanic community in America. He spoke specifically about how big government pushed Hispanics out of Venezuela and Cuba, and brought them to the freedom of places like Miami.
"That's what big government does, it traps people in the circumstances of their birth." We should defund Obamcare because, Rubio said, "it undermines the American free-enterprise system."
His question for Cruz: Aren't we also fighting today for American free enterprise?
7:30 a.m.: Cruz Returns With a Warning
Thanking Rubio for his time, Cruz said that "if Obamacare had been law, he might not be in the Senate right now." He suggested that it may have prevented him from getting to represent Texas, as well.
The idea here being that, the impact of Obamacare on businesses in general, and the Hispanic community in particular, could be so taxing that it wouldn't have allowed the Rubios and the Cruzes to succeed in America.
"There is no ideal that resonates more with the Hispanic community than the American dream," Cruz said. "Has Obamacare made it harder to achieve the American dream?"
From there, Cruz gave way to another question from Rubio, that is at least in part intended to be an answer to that question.
7:20 a.m.: What We Missed
The floor speech has been going on for nearly 17 hours now. We missed a good chunk of it overnight. But here's some of what happened:
Around 1:00 a.m., Cruz took time to talk about the religious liberty implications of Obamacare.
Cruz was joined by the first Democratic senator on the floor at around 9:00 p.m. as Illinois' Dick Durbin came down. Durbin didn't come just as a friend though. He questioned Cruz on whether or not he really wanted to shutdown the government, and whether Cruz really thought he had the votes to defund Obamacare. You can see video of their back-and-forth here:
Durbin was also one of the few Democrats to come to the floor during Rand Paul's spring drone filibuster.
At around 3:00 a.m., at least Mike Lee had joined Cruz on the floor. At some point, Lee said that he wishes he could be a pirate.
A bit before midnight, Cruz read tweets from his #MakeDCListen tag.
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:
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:
I remain opposed to Obamacare and I will not vote for any funding of Obamacare.— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) September 24, 2013
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:
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:
Ted Cruz said he would go to Washington and change Washington. He has -- he's made it worse.— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) September 24, 2013
And, of course:
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:
Ted Cruz, Ima let you finish but... pic.twitter.com/zDSNK8HrAX— Mark Takano (@RepMarkTakano) September 24, 2013