Cruz ends marathon ObamaCare protest after more than 21 hours

Greg Nash

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) ended his 21-hour-plus marathon protest against ObamaCare with a plea to his Senate GOP colleagues to "unite" in a bid to prevent Democrats in the upper chamber from funding the healthcare law in a bill to keep the federal government running. 

"I would call on all 46 Republicans to unite, to stand together and vote against cloture on the bill," Cruz said, spurring applause. 

"Because otherwise, if we vote with the Senate leader and Democrats, we will be voting to allow the majority leader to strip defunding ObamaCare from the measure."

Cruz yielded the floor at noon, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a floor discussion with him that he could go until 1 p.m. if he wanted. Cruz said he was under a different impression and would yield at noon.

Cruz suggested he be allowed to speak later in the day, saying that he pledged to talk until he can't stand anymore and that he still had some energy left.

"Although I am weary, there is still at least strength in my legs to stand a little longer," he said.

The Texas senator, whose tactics have infuriated Democrats and annoyed fellow Republicans, said he believes voters are on his side, demanding their elected representatives take a stand to fix bad laws. 

"The frustration [that Congress] doesn't listen to people is deafening," Cruz said. 

Cruz had been speaking, mostly uninterrupted, since Tuesday afternoon. He was hoping the effort would encourage colleagues not to allow a government funding bill that includes spending for ObamaCare.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had previously held the speaking record for current senators, after filibustering President Obama's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency in March to protest of the administration's drone policy. 

Paul spoke for more than 12 hours and 50 minutes in a floor speech.

Cruz's marathon talkfest came just days after he vowed to do anything possible to maintain language in a House continuing resolution that would defund ObamaCare. 

Cruz is one of several Republicans who oppose a Democratic plan to advance the resolution with GOP support and then get a simple majority to take out the ObamaCare language later in the process.

Cruz began speaking Tuesday afternoon at 2:41 p.m. and, by 11:41 a.m. Wednesday, he surpassed 21 hours of talking, aided on occasion by fellow conservatives Paul, and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The sheer length of Cruz's speech forced him to dig deep for analogies to criticize the Affordable Care Act. At one point early Wednesday, he questioned which horror movie villain ObamaCare is more similar to, Freddy or Jason.

“Is ObamaCare more like Jason or Freddy?” Cruz said. “The only way we stop Jason and/or Freddy is if the American people step up, and we listen.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to advance H.J.Res. 59 with an amendment to remove the House language that defunds ObamaCare. A vote to end debate on the motion to proceed is expected Wednesday, and Cruz's actions could not stop that from happening.

The government will shut down Oct. 1 if Congress doesn't approve some form of government funding measure.

Despite the fanfare that surrounded Cruz's bid to keep the defunding provisions in the House-passed spending bill, Democrats said the entire effort was a prenegotiated stunt.  

Reid's spokesman said Tuesday that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) filibuster was fake.

"Fun fact: Senator Cruz pre-negotiated the terms of his #fakefilibuster with Senator Reid yesterday. Not exactly a Mr. Smith moment," Adam Jentleson, the communications director for Reid tweeted more than two hours after Cruz took to the Senate floor.

Cruz sometimes veered far from strict discussions of the healthcare law as a way to fill time. 

At one point Tuesday night, Cruz read aloud from Dr. Seuss's classic Green Eggs and Ham, saying he wanted to read a book to his daughters before bedtime. 

"Green Eggs and Ham is applicable to ObamaCare debate … because Obama and Democrats told Americans to just try ObamaCare," Cruz said. "They did not like ObamaCare, they did not like it in a House, they did not like it with a mouse."

Cruz later appeared to be inspired by being called a “wack-o-bird” by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who was referring to Tea Party extremists within his own party. 

Cruz proceeded to quote the popular TV show “Duck Dynasty,” which is a reality show about a family that invented and sells duck calls.

“’Duck Dynasty is one of the most popular shows right now,” Cruz said. “Here are words of wisdom from that show. … ‘You put five rednecks on a mower, it’s going to be epic.’ … ‘Most things can be fixed with duct tape and an extension cord.’ … ‘Faith, family and facial hair.’”

Cruz said that was the kind of “home spun wisdom” the United States was built on.

“It’s something to chuckle on, but it’s also a lot of common sense.”

Cruz has angered some of his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate with his tactics, and he acknowledged the divisions over how best to fight ObamaCare. 

"I believe every Republican should be unified; right now, we're not," he said. "Right now, there are divisions in the Republican caucus."

— Sheldon Alberts contributed

— This story was originally posted at 7:01 a.m. and last updated at 10:55 a.m.

More in Senate

Reid: GOP cares more about NRA than closing 'terrorist loophole'

Read more »