WASHINGTON: Most US senators expect to pass a stopgap spending bill this week, but one lawmaker is so against it he took to the Senate floor for a marathon 21 hours.
Few knew when Republican Senator Ted Cruz started speaking on Tuesday afternoon that he would still be engaged in his talkathon, much less awake, yesterday morning to oppose the temporary budget.
But such is his fierce opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law — funding for which is included in the budget bill — that he held the floor through the night, delivering one of the longest Senate speeches since precise time-keeping began in 1900.
The conservative first-term lawmaker from Texas, who often is discussed as a likely presidential contender in 2016, significantly boosted his profile with his marathon speech, which was carried as a top item on many American news broadcasts.
Cruz voiced what he said is Americans’ deep discontent for the law known as “Obamacare,” and aimed to unite Republicans in opposition to passing a spending bill that does not defund the health care law.
“Why won’t they listen to me?” he asked a nearly empty chamber late Tuesday, speaking of the refusal by Washington’s “ruling class” to hear his complaints and those of their constituents.
Over the hours, Cruz answered questions by at least 10 other senators, including fellow conservatives Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, who back his effort to stall the legislation even at the risk of forcing a government shutdown.
Many Republicans have expressed opposition to the strategy, warning it could backfire and not leave the House of Representatives enough time to consider the Senate measure and either pass it or send back a counteroffer.
But Cruz, a conservative Republican with Tea Party sympathies, pressed on with his talkathon.
“While the Senate slept, men and women of America didn’t get a respite from the nightmare of what is causing them to lose their jobs and never to get hired,” he said.
When Cruz began at 2:41pm on Tuesday, he said he intended to speak “until I am no longer able to stand.”
That carried him into the night, when he gave a dramatic reading of the classic children’s book “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr Seuss, as his young daughters back home in Texas were preparing for bed.
The longest Senate speech on record was a filibuster by Senator Strom Thurmond in 1957, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act.
How did Cruz manage to not require the men’s room for nearly a full day? “Drinking very little water.” AFP