Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the firebrand Tea Party freshman, took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to deliver a pyrrhic filibuster-like speech intended to stop the chamber from amending a temporary spending measure passed last Friday by House Republicans.
But after the Texas Republican acknowledged he had no way to prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) from stripping out the anti-Obamacare language and sending the measure back to the House just before Monday’s deadline, Cruz—a collegiate debater—shifted gears to block the bill with a cascade of words.
In his protest speech, which started just after 2:40 p.m. ET and extended through the night, Cruz criticized Obamacare but also read the text of the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham.”
Cruz’s name has quickly become the subject of Seuss-like puns to explain an almost inexplicable crisis leading up to a possible government shutdown that until yesterday seemed to be on auto pilot.
Yet even before Cruz began his marathon speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky moved to take Republicans off “Cruz control.”McConnell and his top lieutenants distanced themselves from Cruz and other Tea Party renegades on Tuesday. The Kentucky senator—up for reelection next year—announced that they would vote to move ahead with the debate and a final vote on the amended measure by Sunday.
“I just don’t happen to think filibustering a bill that defunds Obamacare is the best route to defunding Obamacare,” McConnell said in a floor speech. “All it does is shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded. And none of us want that.”
Sen. John Cornyn, the senior Republican senator from Texas and Number 2 in the GOP leadership ranks, also announced he was not supporting Cruz
“I think the focus needs to be on why is it that we can’t get red state Democrats who can read the newspaper, watch television, read the Internet traffic just like we can, which shows that Obamacare has been a dismal failure,” Cornyn told reporters.
Meanwhile, Reid urged Senate Republicans to work with him on an alternative CR that would keep the government operating through Nov. 15, while appropriators rushed to approve the bulk of a new budget for the upcoming fiscal 2014. The House-passed resolution would extend government spending through Dec. 15 on a $986 billion annualized basis.
“Let me be clear,” Reid told reporters. “The Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare.”
Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are considering attaching a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate to the Senate bill when it comes back to the House, according to Politico. Such a last-minute maneuver would almost assure a government shutdown because Senate Democrats would either reject the change or lack time to respond before the deadline Monday.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had to reschedule a weekend retreat with GOP donors, in case the House needs to be in session to respond to the spending bill returned by the Senate, according to The Washington Examiner. The House speaker had been slated to meet with contributors on Saturday and Sunday at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA.
With just seven days before the new fiscal year begins -- when funding is needed to keep federal departments and agencies running -- Cruz has seen his support dwindle in the Senate.
One Senate Republican dismissed Cruz’s tactics as the “dumbest idea,” while another warned that Cruz was leading the GOP into a “box canyon.”
What’s more, many House Republicans are still furious that Cruz signaled he didn’t have the votes to uphold the House-passed measure even before the fight in the Senate was fully joined.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) called Cruz a “fraud” who will “no longer have any influence in the Republican Party,” according to CNN.
But the brash 42-year old Texan, a Harvard and Princeton graduate who is considering a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has shrugged off his critics. He dismissed them as professional politicians more concerned about retaining power than responding to the demands of voters to block the Affordable Care Act at all cost.
“People wonder why this Congress has such a low approval rating,” Cruz said during his lengthy floor speech. “I’m going to suggest it’s because this Congress is not listening to the American people.”
Cruz was flanked at times by Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), who recommended Cruz wear comfortable shoes and not eat food on national television, according to Politico.