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Robert Longley

Did Senator Cruz 'Filibuster' or Not?

By September 27, 2013

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Since it never had a chance to delay a vote, Sen. Ted Cruz's 21-hour verbal campaign in opposition to Obamacare on the floor of the Senate may or may not have been a real "filibuster."

Starting last Tuesday afternoon, the freshman Republican Senator from Texas took the floor promising to speak "until I am no longer able to stand" against implementation of President Obama's health care reform law - The Affordable Care Act - enacted way back in 2010.

The object of Cruz's "fili-whatever" was to block the passage of a bill he actually supported - a bill to keep the government from shutting down by allowing it to keep on spending money without a budget and cutting off all funds for implementing Obamacare, which he roundly hates. Cruz wanted the bill stopped, because he knew if it went forward, Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid would strip out his Obamacare defunding measure.

Also See: Confused by Obamacare? Try an Obamacare Navigator

Cruz, occasionally assisted by other Republican Senators, held the floor for 21 hours, 19 minutes, which would earn his effort third place on the list of the five longest filibusters in Senate history, if it was actually a filibuster at all.

While Cruz and his allies called the event a filibuster, Senate Democrats insisted that it was little more than an overly-long speech.

First, not even parliamentary experts agree on a definition of "filibuster."

Many, including Majority Leader Reid, say a real filibuster is speaking for an extended period in order to prevent a vote on bill. In that case, they say, Cruz's speech was not a filibuster, because the Senate was set to vote on the issue come hell or long speeches.

"There will be no filibuster today," Sen. Reid told the Senate. "Filibusters stop people from voting, and we are going to vote tomorrow."

Before Sen. Cruz even took the floor, Senate Democrats had filed a motion for cloture - an automatic end to debate - on the continuing spending resolution. Under Senate rules, filing for cloture requires the Senate to take a final vote on the cloture motion two days later. In other words, Cruz's speech had no chance of preventing the vote.

On the other hand, some say a filibuster is any attempt to delay the legislative process in the Senate, and by controlling the floor, Cruz's speech did prevent Senators from passing a unanimous consent agreement to vote before the end of the two-day waiting period.

Indeed, the Senate's own website says "filibuster" is an "informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions."

In the end, whether it was a true filibuster or not, the Cruzathon failed. All 100 Senators -- including Cruz himself - voted to proceed to final consideration of the continuing spending resolution, from which Sen. Reid will almost certainly strip Sen. Cruz's measure blocking Obamacare funding.

Also See:
Shutdowns Have Not Stopped Social Security Checks
Key Functions Continue During a Government Shutdown
The Cost of ObamaCare Delays

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