Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) concluded a 21-hour presentation — not technically a filibuster, but in the same spirit — during which he called on his peers to pass the defunding measure for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He began speaking around 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday and concluded around noon on Wednesday.
“This was all about elevating the debate in the public and giving the American people the chance to speak,” Cruz told ABC News after the event. “At this point, the debate is in the hands of the American people.”
Cruz’s speech comes in the wake of a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would fund government operations through December but also defund the Affordable Care Act. The issue has backed both parties into separate corners — the Senate, controlled by the Democratic Party, is unlikely to pass a budget that defunds Obamacare and is expected to remove the defunding provision when it returns the legislation to the House. Regardless, the White House has made it clear that Obama will veto any budget measure that defunds the health care law.
Here are some highlights from Cruz’s so-called fauxlibuster.
1. Green Eggs and Ham
About six hours into his performance — around 8 p.m. EDT, better known as “bedtime” for some — Cruz capitalized on an apparently rare opportunity to read one of his favorite children’s books: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. In case you missed it, here is the reading:
“You know, Green Eggs and Ham has some applicability, as curious as it might sound, to the Obamacare debate,” Cruz said. “Because three-and-a-half years ago, President Obama and Senate Democrats told the American people, just try Obamcare. Just try it. There were an awful lot of us, an awful lot of Republicans who were very, very skeptical of it.
“I’ll tell you the difference with Green Eggs and Ham is when Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham, and they did not like Obamacare, either. They did not like Obamacare in a box with a fox, in a house or with a mouse.”
So Cruz did not totally miss the point of Green Eggs and Ham — although, at the end of the story, for those not initiated and for who skipped the video, the narrator actually likes the meal. He apparently just chose to selectively apply its message, highlighted by the notion that Americans have already gotten a taste of Obamacare.
2. Who Cares About Politicians in Washington?
“Most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington,” Cruz said. “Who cares?”
We would have to guess, if asked, that most Americans actually do care about politicians, and particularly the ones in Washington. Senators, as Cruz is abundantly aware of, are elected to represent and execute the will of their constituents. Cruz emphasized this point repeatedly, shaming the policymakers he believes are acting in bad faith by not working to defund and dismantle Obamacare.
The intelligence and disposition of Congress members are exactly why Americans vote for them and trust them to conduct the nation’s business. Lapses of these qualities are what earn them record low approval ratings. Americans care about politicians in Washington because after ballots are cast, the people have little to no control over what policymakers actually do: whether they vote to defund Obamacare; whether they vote to raise the debt ceiling; whether they decide to engage in brinkmanship.
Contrary to what Cruz insisted, the fight over Obamacare is in many ways an issue of personalities.
3. Redneck One-Liners
Cruz spent about four minutes quoting the “God-fearing family of successful entrepreneurs who love guns” from Duck Dynasties. The relationship between the words of wisdom now forever transcribed into the Congressional record and Obamacare was not exactly clear, but by this point, Cruz’s performance it felt as if he was waxing poetic more than engaging in political rhetoric.
Cruz did throw watchers a bone, though: “Phil also said very simply: happy, happy, happy … When we defund Obamacare, we’re all going to be happy, happy, happy.”