Ted Cruz, right now, is speaking "in opposition to Obamacare" until he is "no longer able to stand." Who the fuck is this guy, and what the fuck is he doing?
What the fuck is Ted Cruz doing?
Right now, like as I type, Ted Cruz is "filibustering" the Senate to prevent anti-Obamacare language from being stripped from a bill that, if it passes, will prevent a shutdown of the federal government.
...Okay. But who is Ted Cruz?
Ted Cruz is a freshman Republican Senator from Texas. Prior to that, he was an asshole at Harvard Law who refused to study with people who graduated from the “minor Ivies.” In 2000, he worked for George W. Bush's campaign, where his ego and self-interested behavior reportedly got him placed post-election at the Federal Trade Commission instead of the White House, where many of his colleagues were assigned.
Why has everyone been talking about him this week?
For months, Cruz, along with Utah Senator Mike Lee, has argued that the best way to defeat Obamacare was by passing legislation (a continuing resolution, or “CR”) that would continue federal spending at the same level for two and a half months only if it included a provision that removed all funding for the President's healthcare plan. In other words, defund Obamacare or we'll defund America. House Republicans agreed to do just that last Wednesday, and on Friday they voted almost unanimously to pass the CR with the anti-Obamacare language attached.
Why are so many conservatives mad at Cruz then? It sounds like they won, right?
Well. The bill, or resolution, did pass the House, but, as pretty much everyone has known and admitted except for Republican leaders, the CR has no chance of making it through the Senate with the current anti-Obamacare language attached. And on Wednesday, immediately after the Republicans announced their plan to take his advice, Cruz backtracked and admitted what reasonable people already knew: that the bill will not pass in the Senate as it is.
“Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so,” Cruz said in a statement. “At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.”
Basically: "Great job, guys. I appreciate you the votes, which will make many of you vulnerable in future primaries. But, uh, now you're on your own, sorry."
Oh. So he abandoned them?
More or less.
So what has been the reaction from Republicans in the House?
They were pissed, as you might expect. Former Real World star (and current Wisconsin congressman) Sean Duffy called Cruz and Lee cowards and said something mean about the Alamo, and Arkansas congressman Tim Griffin tweeted “so far Sen Rs are good at getting Facebook likes, and townhalls, not much else.”
This is on top of other, older criticism of Cruz's plan from Republicans, who have called it the “dumbest idea ever,” “dishonest,” a "temper tantrum," “box canyon,” and a “suicide note.” And that's just the Republicans!
What did Cruz do next?
He promised to fight the bill in the Senate by "filibustering" it. Basically, he'll ask the Senate to change the vote from a simple majority to one requiring a 60-vote threshold in an attempt to prevent Reid and Democrats from removing the anti-Obamacare provision.
And then he'll attempt to prevent the bill — which he once supported — from moving forward so the anti-Obamacare language won't be removed. Not that it will matter, because his "filibuster" is not technically a filibuster at all. From Talking Points Memo:
He will have to leave the floor around Wednesday at 1 pm ET, even if he's still standing by then, because he doesn't have the power to delay a scheduled cloture vote.
Here's the procedural background: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the motion to proceed Tuesday. Under Rule 22 of the Senate, the vote happens one hour after the chamber convenes the following day.
In short, his "filibuster" is not actually a filibuster. It's merely a speech to kill time.
Are Republican leaders supporting this maneuver?
No, or at least the top two in the Senate aren't. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP Whip John Cornyn (the other Senator from Texas) both announced they wouldn't support Cruz's plan, though they did so in a way that made it very very clear they still opposed Obamacare. Of course, there are other Republican Senators, like Marco Rubio, who have doubled down and decided to support Cruz's "filibuster."
But what if Cruz manages to somehow obstruct the bill? Will Obamacare lose funding?
No. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already promised that the CR with existing anti-Obamacare language is “dead,” and President Obama has promised to veto it if somehow becomes undead, which it won't.
What stupid thing will Cruz suggest when this current plan fails?
"If Harry Reid kills this bill in this Senate, I think the House should hold its ground and begin passing smaller continuing resolutions one department at a time," Cruz said. "It should start with a continuing resolution focused on the military.
"Let's see if Harry Reid is willing to shut down the military just because he wants to force Obamacare on the American people."
So why is Cruz doing this if it's clearly unrealistic and, apparently, a terrible political move?
Because he's a grandstanding asshole? But also possibly because it endears him to the Republican/Tea Party base (presuming it doesn't lead to a massive government shutdown that voters will rightfully blame on selfish political maneuvering by Republicans), in theory setting him up for a Presidential run in 2016, or so says David Frum at the Daily Beast:
In the Senate, Cruz may look right now the very opposite of shrewd. But the view Cruz cares about is the view from Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina—and from there he looks like a hero to many of the Republicans who'll choose the party's nominee in 2016.
[Image via AP]
This post has been updated for clarification.