It's Over: Cruz Leaves Senate Floor After Marathon Crusade Against Obamacare

Sep 25, 2013 11:09 AM

For 21 hours and counting, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has been standing and speaking on the Senate floor without so much as a bathroom break to interrupt his symbolic demonstration against Obamacare, but NBC News has learned that he plans on leaving the floor at noon Wednesday.

There is no sign that the weary Cruz is prepared to end his marathon speaking session until the Senate reconvenes around noon Wednesday for a vote he cannot prevent. Senate officials and Cruz’ senior staff tell NBC News that Cruz has not left the Senate floor, has not been seated and has had just a few nibbles to eat. He has had short breaks from speaking only to allow a handful of friendly colleagues to ask him long questions. Wearing black sneakers instead of his trademark cowboy boots, Cruz has paced the floor while others spoke to stretch his legs.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and

news about the economy

But for all the posturing, his effort amounts to little more than a very, very long speech. The display is not formally considered a filibuster because it is not being used to stop legislation – in this case a bill that would continue to fund the government.

The Senate will still proceed with a vote, scheduled for about 1:00pm on Wednesday, to take up legislation passed last week by Republicans in the House which would prevent a government shutdown but also contains provisions to stop funding the Affordable Care Act. Cruz is protesting the bill because Senate rules would allow Democrats to strip the part that would defund Obamacare.

When he took to the Senate floor just after 2:41 p.m. on Tuesday, Cruz vowed to speak in opposition to the Affordable Care Act “until I am no longer able to stand.”

And speak he did, all through the night. Cruz read Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” as he wished his children goodnight from the Capitol. He professed his love for White Castle burgers, talked about Star Wars and the moon and even commended actor Ashton Kutcher for a recent award show speech. Between the padding, the freshman senator dipped into long monologues about his fierce opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Because of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s move Monday to schedule a test vote on government funding for Wednesday morning, Cruz can’t do anything on his own procedurally to delay the timing of that vote.

And as Cruz spoke, Reid aide Adam Jentleson tweeted that the Republican "pre-negotiated the terms of his #fakefilibuster with Senator Reid yesterday. Not exactly a Mr. Smith moment."

When asked how long he planned to speak, Cruz offered a wry response to reporters on Capitol Hill: “We shall see.”

If Cruz managed to keep at least 60 of his fellow senators from supporting that Wednesday vote, he could prevent cutting off debate on the budget bill – and that would be a filibuster.

Cruz wants that procedural vote to fail, because – if the final government funding bill subsequently passed, Democrats would simply strip out the part of the legislation that deals with Obamacare, kicking the clean bill back to the House.

But Cruz has only a few allies in that attempt. Some of those supporters, Republican Sens. Mike Lee, David Vitter, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, Marco Rubio, Jim Inhofe, and Mike Enzi had visited the Senate floor to ask their colleague a question, a tactic that allowed Cruz a temporary break from speaking.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who in March held a 13-hour filibuster, also took to the Senate floor to ask if Cruz would accept any sort of compromise that keeps the government open while revising the health care law.

Republicans “don’t control all the government” Paul said while asking Cruz if he intended to shut down the government.

Cruz said he did not want to shut down the government, but would not be open to a middle ground and "will not vote for a continuing resolution that does not defund 'Obamacare.'"

Paul actually privately opposed Cruz's approach to the stopgap spending measure during a meeting with other GOP senators on Tuesday. Sources told NBC News that Paul joined with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to help hasten the return of the spending measure to the House to give colleagues in the lower chamber more time to figure out how to proceed.



Most Popular