Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched an epic, 21-plus hour speech on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon in protest of the Affordable Care Act, declaring, "I intend speak in support of defunding Obamacare until I am no longer able to stand."
The senator wants to block a government spending bill because Democratic leaders in the Senate intend to strip from it a provision that would defund Obamacare. Throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, assisted at times by his conservative colleagues, Cruz bemoaned the impact of the health care law, hailed his efforts to stop it, and to fill time, he rambled on about some of his favorite movies and children's books. Some of his remarks -- including the very insistence the Senate can defund the health care law -- took some liberties with the truth. Here's a look at some of Cruz's questionable statements.
Several members of Cruz's own party have pointed out that, even if they wanted to, they can't use the spending bill in question to revoke funding for the health law. A large portion of the law is funded with mandatory spending -- which Congress is required by law to keep up unless the law is repealed -- as well as multi-year funds still available even in the event of a government shutdown.
At the outset of his remarks Tuesday afternoon, Cruz took issue with that fact. He likened his cause to The Little Engine that Could. "If you listen to a lot of members of this body, the message would be simple, that little engine can't," he said. "What they'd say to that train when it started at the bottom of the hill is, no you can't."
If Congress doesn't pass the spending bill by Oct. 1, parts of the federal government would shut down.
Around 9 p.m. Tuesday, Cruz said, "Let me be very, very clear. I do not believe we should shut down the federal government. The only reason we might shut down the federal government is if President Obama and Majority Leader Reid decide they want to force a government shutdown."
Both Mr. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have been as adamant as Cruz and others about avoiding a government shutdown.
"They've gone beyond just holding Congress hostage, they're holding the whole country hostage," Mr. Obama said in a speech in Missouri last week. "One Republican senator called shutting down the government over the Affordable Care Act 'the dumbest idea I've ever heard.' I agree with him... The American people have worked too hard for too long, digging out of a real crisis just to let politicians in Washington cause another crisis."
On the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Reid said, "Now just as the economy begins to gain steam, some Republicans in Congress seem determined to derail four years of progress... They're pushing us closer and closer to a government shutdown that would tank the economy, and that's an understatement. The American people at least deserve this, that we work together to get things done. And I would hope that with this crisis facing us, we can put all our obsessions about health care, and Obama getting reelected, and our still controlling the Senate behind us and move on."
Near the end of his remarks Wednesday, Cruz said he was nearing the end of his "filibuster," but "there is still at least strength in my legs to stand a little longer."
There's no question Cruz's speech was long -- if he had been allowed to talk until 3 p.m. Wednesday, he would have recorded the longest Senate floor speech since 1900. It was not, however, technically a filibuster, since it isn't stopping the spending bill's progress.
"This is an agreement that he and I made that he could talk," Reid said regarding Cruz's floor speech. He noted that the Senate would take a vote to proceed with the bill at 1 p.m. whether Cruz liked it or not. Cruz doesn't have enough support from his conservative colleagues to block the bill.
Many Republicans wanted to stop stalling the legislation, so that the Republican majority in the House has time to consider it -- and potentially amend it with a less controversial provision than the Obamacare defunding provision -- before the government shuts down. "It would be to the advantage to our colleagues in the House or in the majority to shorten the process," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday.
Cruz on Wednesday, along with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., railed against the fact that members of Congress have protested the convoluted rule requiring members of Congress and staffers to join the Obamacare exchanges.
"If it's so wonderful then the majority leader, the congressional staff should be eager to get it," Cruz said of the health care law. "If it is intolerable for us to get this, it should be intolerable for the American people."
Vitter complained that staffers will get a "special subsidy completely unavailable to other Americans."
Congressional staffers who join the exchange can get subsidies from their employer (the government) for their coverage; however, other Americans getting employer-based health insurance through the exchange can also get their coverage subsidized.