Ted Cruz’s Long Speech To Block Obamacare Funding Is No Filibuster

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Sen. Ted Cruz took to the floor on Tuesday afternoon to speak until he is “no longer able to stand” in his quest to stop a bill that would fund Obamacare. But before you use the word “filibuster” — as Cruz’s supporters are eager to do — the Texas Republican is procedurally limited by a vote scheduled to take place mid-day on Wednesday.

Cruz, who began speaking at 2:41 p.m. ET on Tuesday, decried the Affordable Care Act, major portions of which will begin to take effect on Oct. 1. The health reform law has become a bargaining chip for passing a continuing resolution to keep the government open after the current one runs out on Sept. 30. Cruz has threatened to filibuster any legislation that could lead to a bill that includes funding for President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

But Cruz’s dreams of a grandstanding filibuster are dashed by the rules of the Senate. He will have to leave the floor around Wednesday at 1 pm ET, even if he’s still standing by then, because he doesn’t have the power to delay a scheduled cloture vote.“Cruz is nothing if not a great performer,” said a Democratic leadership aide. “We’re holding out hope that he’ll don his famous paisley bathrobe at some point during his fake filibuster.”

Here’s the procedural background: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the motion to proceed Tuesday. Under Rule 22 of the Senate, the vote happens one hour after the chamber convenes the following day.

In short, his “filibuster” is not actually a filibuster. It’s merely a speech to kill time.

Once 60 votes are achieved to proceed, expected to happen on Wednesday, debate is limited to 30 hours. That time is divided equally between the two parties, which means Cruz will still lack the ability to filibuster. He may, however, eat up the 15 hours allocated to his party for debate if he holds the floor.

An actual filibuster requires 41 votes to deny cloture and block legislation from moving forward. Cruz does not have that many votes. Even a talking filibuster isn’t an option under Rule 22 when debate begins on a bill. Previous talking filibusters, such as the one by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) earlier this year, were not amidst debate on a bill.

Regardless, organizations ranging from the Democratic National Committee to the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks described it as a filibuster anyway.

The DNC warned of “Ted Cruz’s Texas Sized Filibuster.”

“FreedomWorks Stands with Ted Cruz’s Filibuster to Stop Reid’s Procedural Trickery,” blared a press release from the organization.

About one hour into his speech, Cruz was joined on the floor by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a fellow proponent of defunding Obamacare, and later by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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