Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, rose to speak on the Senate floor at 2:41 p.m. He stood up to in opposition to Obamacare, he said. And he said he would continue to speak until he could no longer stand.
It's not a filibuster. But it's looking like it may be a very, very long speech from the Texas senator who has been the center of attention in D.C.'s budget fight, and the Senate leader in a doomed-to-fail movement to strip funding for Obamacare out of any resolution that Congress passes to fund the government. If Congress fails to come to an agreement, the government will shutdown at the end of September.
Ted Cruz stood up to "make D.C. listen," he said repeatedly. "Washington depends on the American people not paying attention."
But what we'll hear during the duration of Sen. Cruz's speech is his view of how to be successful in modern American politics. And, in the reactions to his speech from members of his own party, we may get a sense of just how successful the ambitious senator can be.
We'll keep updating. This could be a while.
4:44 PM: Personal History
A little after 4:30, Ted Cruz began to speak about his father's experience of "being beat and almost killed in Cuban jail," and his own family history. The full Cruz story, as written recently in GQ, makes for a fascinating read.
Speaking slightly earlier about poverty in America, Cruz brought up an interesting political comparison:
I didn't agree with a lot of things that John Edwards said as a political candidate, but I actually agreed with that notion that there are two Americas.
Cruz spoke wove hs father's history into this idea, and how his family was able to come up in America.
Understandably, Cruz got a little off the broader point of politics here, saying things like "my father invented green eggs and ham," and then talking about his love of the book.
But as weird and random as this might sound, Cruz is also attempting to do something that Rand Paul pulled off (to an extent) in his spring filibuster. He's introducing himself to the country. Obviously most people in America aren't glued to C-SPAN right now, but bet on seeing these clips of Sen. Cruz talking about his family and his early life floating around in the coming years.
4:33 pm: Obamacare Is a Rule for the Little People
Sen. Cruz has spent much of the last dozen or so minutes speaking out against the exemptions the White House has issued for Obamacare. Mark my words, he said, if Obamacare goes into effect "you will see an exemption for labor unions." Summoning Leona Helmsle, Cruz called the law a rule for the "little people."
As Ezra Klein writes at WonkBlog, the odds of actually seeing a labor exemption aren't looking too hot.
4:22 pm: The Democrats Come to the Attack
On Twitter at least. You can see the full Twitter reactions at bottom.
4:12: Defending Vitter
Following a quick question from Louisiana Republican David Vitter, Ted Cruz launched into a defense of David Vitter's proposed amendment that would require lawmakers and others to no longer get federal subsidies for their health insurance.
"I want to commend Senator David Vitter for shining a light on basic fairness," said Cruz. Although Cruz later did note that there could be some consequences if some people in Congress lose their subsidies:
If the Vitter Amendment passes, if Congress is subject to the same rules of the American people, there might be a few congressional staffers that tender their resignation.
4:03: Getting to Work
Sen. Cruz has spent a decent portion of his speaking time since returning from a question break devoted to the idea that Obamacare is a job killer. "Some politicians suggest people in this country are lazy, don't want to work," he said. "I think Americans want to work."
"Why aren't people able to get jobs? Because Obamacare is killing jobs." And with that, Senator Cruz yielded for a quick question from Lousiana Republican David Vitter.
And, at least so far, the idea that Obamacare is a giant job killer hasn't really borne out.
3:57 pm: Cruz Returns, With History
The senator came back from Sen. Lee's questioning a little before 4. And he came to give a history lesson about mankind's struggle for freedom.
"If you look at the history of government in the world, it hasn't been pretty," he said. "It has been a story of oppression. A story of rulers imposing their rule on their subjects."
Cruz suggested that the U.S. hasn't been working on the proper side of this history. "For some time the United States has not behaved as if each of us collectively have 300 million bosses." But, he hopes, this week of making D.C. listen will change that. ""The most important objective this week is to reassert that sovereignty lies with We the People."
3:48 pm: Hashtags
3:37 pm: Question Time
Without yielding the floor, Sen. Cruz elected to take a question from his friend and ally, Utah Republican Mike Lee. "How many more Americans will have to lose their jobs before Congress acts?" he asked. The questions are playing a similiar role to the ones Lee lobbed at Rand Paul during his epic drone filibuster. They give Cruz a minute to catch his breath.
3:35 pm: What's a "Flying Flip?"
The senator said that most Americans "could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians." He continued, "almost all of us are in cheap suits and bad haircuts. Who cares?"
We don't know exactly what a "flying flip" is, but we can take a guess at what the senator was getting at.
In all seriousness though, this is another sign of what the overriding theme of this speech has been to this point. It's not really about health care. Policy hasn't been mentioned. It's about what Ted Cruz sees as the incredible failings of the U.S. Congress, a body he thinks won't listen to average Americans.
If Ted Cruz had already lost a lot of friends in the Senate this week, this speech sure won't do anything to help him. How it plays with a grassroots community that he's aiming for for a possible 2016 run though? We'll have to wait and see on that one.
3:28 pm: Against Cocktail Parties
So says the senator:
Mr. President, it is apparently very, very important to be invited to all the right cocktail parties in town. At the end of the day we don't work for those holding cocktail parties in Washington D.C. We don't work for the intelligensia who live in cities and write editorials for big newspapers. We work for the American people.
Cocktail parties are stereotypically endemic in Washington D.C., a symbol for an elitist culture gone awry. But it's a trope that doesn't always ring so true with the new reality where many members of Congress are hesitant to cross party lines--even for drinks.
Cruz, for his part, has had some issues with elitism this week. A profile of the senator in GQ presented the Harvard and Princeton graduate as someone who didn't associate with people from the "lesser Ivies."
3:20 pm: Another Kind of Insurance
Playing off the idea of health insurance, Cruz said that his fight against Obamacare is "about insuring that the American people have a voice." Because, get it, puns. He continued, saying it's about:
insuring that those who are struggling, those who are without a job, those who are afraid about losing their health insurance, that Washington listens to them. That Washington acts on their needs.
3:15 pm: The Rest of the Senate Needs to Get to Work
Cruz doesn't think he should be the only guy on the floor speaking for hours about the Affordable Care Act. "We oughtta have all 100 senators on this floor around the clock" until the law is no more, said the senator.
And he hit his coworkers on their priorities: "The Senate floor is largely empty. Everyone's schedules are apparently busy enough that standing up against Obamacare doesn't make the priority list." Cruz later pointed to the lack of senators attending his speech as being part of the reason why Congress has such a low approval rating.
"Anyone who wants to know why this body is held in low esteem only has to look out to the empty chairs," he said. And his remarks for his colleagues got a bit more personally biting from there:
There's a tendency as time goes on to view your constituents as an annoyance. In the private sector if your boss picks up the phone and calls, I suspect neither you nor I sat at the computer and played Solitaire.
We'll be looking for a response from Senator McCain.
3:10 pm: Nazis
If you were betting on a WWII appearance within the first hour of Cruz speaking, you're in luck! The senator compared people (namely, pundits) who say that his attempt to stop or defund Obamacare can't be done to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler and the Nazis.
Cruz did admit that there have been some historical obstacles that have proved as daunting to overcome as the Affordable Care Act: "The moon might be as intimidating as Obamacare."
3:05 pm: It's Time For Analogies
For any long, extemporaneous speech, some odd cultural references are likely to sneak in. Just 20 minutes in, Cruz has already mentioned the Little Engine the Could and professional wrestling.
A little before 3:00, Cruz compared the United States Congress to a very different body: World Wrestling Entertainment. "It's wrestling matches where it's all rigged," he said. "The outcome is predetermined, and it's all for show."
As for the engine, the Texas senator said that if that Little Engine tried to bring its "I think I can" attitude to Congress, he'd be in for a sorry surprise. "That little engine can't," Cruz said. Presumably, in this analogy, Ted Cruz takes on the persona of the train. If that helps clear anything up for how you view the 113th Congress.