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 against 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.
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?"