Seized by his opposition to President Obama’s overhaul of US healthcare, Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator from Texas and Tea Party star, completed a marathon if inconsequential speech clocking over 21 hours on the Senate floor, railing against moves that would keep the health reforms funded.
Although to those outside the Washington beltway it appeared to be a filibuster – Capitol Hill jargon for when a Senator occupies the chamber’s floor to indefinitely block other business – Mr Cruz’s diatribe was technically only an extended speech. Under the rules, without the support of the majority of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, he had to yield to a planned vote that would lead the way to a measure to fund the federal government through mid-November, including funds for the healthcare reforms known as Obamacare.
But that did not stop Mr Cruz from talking through the night. He began speaking around 2:40 in the afternoon on Tuesday, insisting that Obamacare “isn’t working” and vowing to fight the reforms “until I am no longer able to stand. After 21 hours and around 19 minutes, not having stopped for a bathroom break, he finally stepped down to allow the Senate to return to its agenda. Had it been a filibuster, Mr Cruz’s speech would have entered the history books as a the fourth longest bid to delay Senate business by talking continuously, surpassing the record of 18 hours and 23 minutes set by Robert La Follette Sr in 1908, when the Wisconsin Senator rose to stall a debate on a currency bill. In his speech, Mr Cruz’s traversed a diverse terrain, slamming Obamacare, Washington rules – and, to keep the clock ticking, quoting from Green Eggs and Ham, the children’s book by Dr Seuss, and mentioning his fondness for White Castle burgers in a section on how the reforms were bad for small business.
At one point, he invoked the example of Ashton Kutcher. “Some time ago I tweeted a speech Ashton Kutcher gave... It was a speech at one of those award shows where he talked about the value of hard work. One of the things I remember he said was this: In my life, opportunity looks an awful lot like hard work,” he said.
Republican leaders did not support Mr Cruz’s effort to delay consideration of the spending resolution and a vote that would allow the measure to go back to the House of Representatives. Politicians are rushing to avert a deadline at the end of this month after which the government would run out of money if new spending measures are not approved.