Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon invoking Tea Party populism in an impassioned speech about his opposition to the health care law and the state of Washington politics.
Cruz wouldn't tell the Washington Examiner how long he plans to talk, but his speech is being compared to a filibuster aimed a blocking a government funding resolution that funds Obamacare -- despite his fierce opposition to that funding. He began speaking around 2:30 p.m.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, joined him after about an hour and the two started talking about "a groundswell" of public support for blocking the implementation of Obamacare, which begins in earnest Oct. 1.
Before Lee arrived, Cruz was alone, underscoring his status as one of only two Republican Senators who have vocally opposed passing the government spending resolution unless it defunds the health care law.
"Anyone who wants to know why this body is held in such low esteem, only needs to look out at the empty chairs," Cruz said, noting the absence of other lawmakers in the chamber during his speech.
Cruz said his goal is to "make D.C. listen" to the demands of constituents who want to block what he calls a "train wreck" health care law, which he noted could eliminate jobs and increase health care costs.
Cruz slammed his Senate colleagues for not siding with him in efforts to defund Obamacare. And he made no exceptions for his fellow Republicans, most of whom opposed Cruz's efforts for fear that it would lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1 for which voters would blame the GOP in 2014.
Most Republicans intend to vote for an amendment that would strip the Obamacare defunding provision from the government spending bill because of the risk of a shutdown. The amendment, which effectively guts the House-passed budget bill, is likely to pass since it will require only a simple majority of 51 and Democrat control 55 votes.
Cruz wants his GOP brethren to block any action on the House bill to prevent Democrats from attaching the amendment, but few were willing to go along.
Cruz probably earned a few new enemies for the scathing criticisms in his speech, but he said he took the stand that most of the constituent callers to his office wanted him to take.
"It's apparently very important to be invited to all the right cocktail parties in town," Cruz said. "There are members of this body for whom that is very important. At the end of the day, we don't work for those holding cocktail parties in D.C., or the intelligencia in D.C. writing newspaper editorials. We work for the American people, we work for every American who believes in the American dream. And this body isn't listening to the people."
Cruz can't talk indefinitely. Senate rules require senators to vote again on Wednesday afternoon.
The amendment gutting the House bill and retaining funding for Obamacare is likely to get the 60 votes it needs to advance in the Senate. Another 60 votes will be needed to cut off debate and advance the bill to a final vote.
Cruz is trying to convince fellow Republicans to vote down the amendment "no" on the second vote, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to then strip out language that defunds the health care law.
"Anyone who votes to cut off debate on this bill is voting to let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid implement Obamacare," Cruz said.