WASHINGTON -- His hand forced by Senate rules, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ended a marathon speech Wednesday in opposition to the Affordable Care Act after holding the floor for more than 21 hours.
Cruz took the floor at 2:41 p.m. EDT on Tuesday vowing to speak “until I am no longer able to stand.” He did so throughout the night, with occasional assistance from colleagues, and into the morning. But in the end it was not fatigue but parliamentary procedure that ended the talk-fest, which technically was not a filibuster but ranks among the longest continuous speeches in the history of the Senate.
The freshman senator had entered the Senate chamber with just a binder, wearing black tennis shoes and not his usual “argument boots.” He placed his wristwatch on his desk to track the time. According to Senate rules, he drank only water, took no bathroom breaks and never sat down.
By Wednesday as he neared the conclusion of his remarks his tie was loosened and the area around his seat on the floor was littered with briefing papers and Post-it notes.
The stated purpose of Cruz’s gesture was to “make D.C. listen” to what he said was the public outcry against President Obama’s healthcare law. He is urging colleagues to vote no on a procedural motion likely to come before the Senate later this week that would end debate. That motion would allow votes on the House-passed spending bill that includes a provision to end funding for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate’s Democratic leaders have vowed to strip the funding provision.
Cruz’s legislative strategy was questioned by Senate Republicans, since the Democrats likely have the votes necessary to follow through. Party leaders have even said they hoped to accelerate the Senate consideration of the funding measure to give the Republican-led House time to vote on another spending bill that would make other changes to the health law more likely to draw Democratic support.
Though Cruz’s floor performance was unlikely to change the outcome, it has proved successful in bolstering the conservative Republican’s national profile. Cruz’s office says that through late Tuesday it had received nearly 3,000 phone calls, mostly supportive. He also generated significant social media response by using the hashtag #makeDClisten, reading some users tweets on the floor.