WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz's marathon talking protest of President Obama's health care law continued Wednesday morning, as the Senate headed toward a procedural vote on a bill that would continue its funding.
Cruz began his talkathon Tuesday afternoon, vowing to speak on the Senate floor "until I am no longer able to stand." Technically under Senate rules, Cruz's tactic is not a filibuster because the Texas Republican cannot prevent the Senate from having a scheduled procedural vote later Wednesday.
Shortly before 7 a.m. ET, Cruz passed Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wis., who spoke on the Senate floor for 16 hours, 12 minutes in 1981 to protest raising the nation's debt limit. In terms of time spent controlling the floor, Cruz has passed such legendary Senate talkers as Robert Byrd, Alfonse D'Amato and Huey Long as he brought attention to Obama's signature domestic achievement.
GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida both arrived in the Senate chamber before dawn Wednesday to ask questions of Cruz, so he didn't have to speak the whole time.
Overnight, Cruz filled time by talking about the Revolutionary War, the battle against the Nazis, reading tweets from supporters and even reciting Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham.
Cruz also shared "words of wisdom" from the reality TV show Duck Dynasty and quoted much of country music singer Toby Keith's song Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.
Cruz took a moment to embrace the "wacko bird" label Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., used to refer to him and other conservative Republicans back in March.
"If it reflects a fidelity to the Constitution, a fidelity to liberty, a willingness to fight, to defend the principles this country was founded on," then Cruz said he and his colleagues were "very proud wacko birds."
The conservative-driven effort to defund Obamacare on a stopgap spending bill now under debate in Congress has raised the threat of a government shutdown Oct. 1.
Cruz and Lee have led the defund effort despite criticism from Senate Republicans who view their tactics as short-sighted because there is no chance of passage up against a Democratic-led Senate and Obama's veto pen.
Lee took the floor to denounce the Affordable Care Act as a first step toward a government-run health care system, "funded, operated and administered entirely from Washington, D.C." Lee referred to the Supreme Court ruling that declared Obamacare to be constitutional as a "lawless act" and "something that we should be ashamed of as Americans."
Lee referred to the Supreme Court ruling that declared Obamacare to be constitutional as a "lawless act" and "something that we should be ashamed of as Americans."
The House-passed spending bill under debate in the Senate maintains the current annual $986 billion funding levels across the federal government through Dec. 15 but includes a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act. The Senate's vote on Wednesday would essentially clear the way for a final up-or-down vote by the weekend, but Reid is going to strip out the language eliminating spending for the health care law, which is why Cruz and his allies are using blocking tactics.
Senate Democrats also intend to change the time period of the stopgap spending bill to Nov. 15, in order to nudge lawmakers closer toward passing the annual spending bills instead of relying on stopgap measures. "The best way to stop lurching on this crisis to the next crisis is to get back into funding our government the way the Founding Fathers set it out, through the appropriations process," Reid said.