WASHINGTON – Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday that he will speak on the Senate floor "until I am no longer able to stand" in opposition to the president's healthcare law, making a symbolic stand to support a legislative strategy that is increasingly opposed by his fellow Republican senators.
Cruz is urging senators to vote against a procedural step on the House-passed spending bill that would keep the government running when the fiscal year ends Monday, but also cut funding to implement the Affordable Care Act.
Most of Cruz's Republican colleagues have said they intend to vote for the motion to cut off debate, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "We'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we were in favor of," McConnell told reporters. "It strikes me as a no-brainer."
But Cruz said that an affirmative vote is a vote to allow Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to strip the House bill of the "Obamacare" language, something he said would be a "profound mistake." That position is supported by outside conservative groups, including the Club For Growth.
Cruz argued that he was making a principled stand for the American people, rather than using Senate procedure as cover. "Our leaders in both parties are asking us … to cut off debate on a bill without even knowing what's in it," he said. "That's how Washington does business."
His intent to speak uninterrupted on the Senate floor recalls a March filibuster from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to protest the Obama administration's drone policy. But Paul seized control of the Senate floor, delaying all other business, while Cruz is just aiming to hold the floor himself until the Senate votes Wednesday on the first of two procedural motions.
That difference led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bluntly say there is no filibuster.
"Filibusters are to stop people from voting. We are going to vote tomorrow," Reid said Tuesday morning. "No one can stop that."
Cruz arrived in the Senate chamber Tuesday afternoon carrying a thick binder and was recognized to speak at 2:41 p.m. After nearly an hour, he deferred to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a partner in the months-long campaign to push the Republican-led House to adopt the defund strategy. He resumed his remarks after about 15 minutes.
Paul's filibuster lasted nearly 13 hours, a span that included remarks from Cruz and others in support of his effort.