Senate TV/AP Photo
On Tuesday at 2:41 p.m., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., took the Senate floor to protest a government funding bill that funds President Obama's signature health care reform law. He plans to talk - and talk - all afternoon and possibly all evening long.
"I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand," Cruz said Monday afternoon.
But make no mistake: What Cruz is doing is not filibuster. And this is not his Mr. Smith goes to Washington moment.
Cruz cannot block legislation. He doesn't have enough support - even from his fellow Republicans. Most of his party has abandoned his effort to wage a filibuster, largely because of worries about shutting down the government. Senate rules dictate that the Senate must adjourn by noon on Wednesday. At that point, the Senate then will reconvene and start its cloture vote on the motion to proceed on the continuing resolution.
This is largely a made-for-cable-TV demonstration. The Texas Republican can't talk more than 15 hours, according to the Senate's rules. Cruz's aides won't say how long he'll speak, but one Republican leadership source suggested he might go on only long enough to reach the prime time audience on Fox News Channel.
So what happens next? The Senate will go through a series of procedural votes, with a final vote expected on Sunday to keep the government running. Then, the bill goes back to the House, where the clock is ticking. The government runs out of money after Sept. 30.
Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., launched a filibuster of the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Paul received some help from his colleagues who spoke for him, but he never left the floor for 12 hours and 52 minutes, when finally nature called. The longest speech on the Senate floor occurred in 1957, when Sen. Strom Thurmond filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
Paul went to the Senate floor Tuesday to bestow some advice upon Cruz when when it comes to speaking for long periods of time on the Senate floor.
"Senators don't always ask for advice. I thought I'd come down and make sure you have comfortable shoes on…try not to eat on television," Paul said on the Senate floor. "That's a little bit of free advice."
Before going on the Senate floor today, Paul tweeted, "I might try to sneak him some candy." During his filibuster in March, Paul was caught on camera eating a candy bar while speaking.
Cruz said that after Paul's filibuster in March, he remembered the Kentucky Republican saying he regretted not wearing comfortable shoes. Cruz normally wears a pair of black ostrich cowboy boots, which he calls his "argument boots", but that's not the case today.
"I will embarrassingly admit that I took the coward's way out and went and purchased some black tennis shoes," Cruz said. "I am not in my argument boots, and I'll confess I really do feel embarrassed by that."
ABC News is curating a list of Sen. Cruz's most memorable lines:
- "It's a little bit like the World Wrestling Federation. It's wrestling matches where…the outcome is pre-rigged, the outcome is predetermined. They know who's going to win and it's all for show." - Cruz on the continuing resolution vote in the Senate
- "The American people are frustrated because their elected officials don't listen. When we're home on the campaign trail, we say we listen. And yet something about this senate floor, something about Washington, D.C. I don't know if it's the water, something in the air, the cherry blossoms, but people get here and they stop listening to the American people."
- "The moon might be as intimidating as Obamacare."
- "I confess I don't go to a lot of cocktail parties in town."
- "Most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington. Almost all of us are in cheap suits with bad haircuts. Who cares?"
- "If we stand together and vote 'no,' that forces this body to deal with the problem. Otherwise we know how the kabuki dance ends."
- "My father described it as a Denny's combined with a Benihana." - Ted Cruz on where his father Rafael used to work.
- "Some time ago I tweeted a speech that Ashton Kutcher gave. It's a terrific speech. It was a speech at one of these award shows where he talked about the value of hard work. And one of the things I remember he said is he said, you know, in my life, opportunity looks an awful lot like hard work. That was a great message. It was a great message to young people…I don't know Mr. Kutcher. I've watched his tv shows and his movies. I don't know him personally. but you know what? he can speak to millions of young people who've never listened to you and would never listen to me."
- "He invented green eggs and ham." - Ted Cruz on his dad cooking for him as a kid.
- "I like their little burgers…I'm a big fan of eating White Castle burgers."
- "You inspire me." - Ted Cruz to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
- "Think of all the people that don't get jobs because there's no White Castle open, not to mention all of the hungry college kids that at 3:00 in the morning are just craving a White Castle, and they can't find one."
- "I do not like green eggs and ham." - Ted Cruz as he read a bedtime story to his daughters who were watching from home. A member of Cruz's staff later tweeted a photo of Cruz's daughters watching their father on C-SPAN as he read them the story.
- "You know the political reporters in Washington, D.C.? I think some of them may be frustrated because they really wanted to be Hollywood gossip reporters."
- Around 9:00 p.m., Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., became the first and potentially only Democratic senator to ask Cruz a question. "The senator's spoken at length many times, including today about his education, and I respect it. He's gone to some very famous schools. Certainly the senator understands that it takes 60 votes to achieve the goal that he is trying to achieve," Durbin noted. "I thank the senator for the comment he has made in public that having attended the schools I have perhaps I haven't learned how to count to 60," Cruz responded. "I am quite familiar with what is necessary to defund Obamacare."