WASHINGTON — Three hours into his Senate speech-a-thon, Sen. Ted Cruz recalled that Sen. Rand Paul ‘s filibuster criticizing U.S. drone policy was seen at first as “curious if not quixotic,” but ultimately “transformed the debate.”
Cruz, a Texas Republican, took control of the Senate floor Tuesday to herald his campaign to eliminate the money needed to implement President Obama‘s healthcare law. He hoped for a galvanizing moment similar to the one sparked by his Kentucky colleague in March.
Congress “is held in such disrepute” because both parties “have refused to listen to the people,” Cruz said, arguing that Americans oppose the healthcare law. “We need to make D.C. listen.”
He spoke to a near-empty Senate chamber, save for several dozen staff members, some observers in the galleries and a Democratic senator who was presiding.
Cruz has vowed to use any means necessary to keep the Democratic-controlled Senate from restoring the money for Obamacare to the spending bill that passed the Republican-led House. His strategy could lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.
But Cruz is finding himself increasingly isolated. A quirk in the way the Senate will vote on the measure has allowed his opponents to claim, as even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did, that Cruz’s approach would “shut down the government and keep Obamacare funded. And none of us want that.”
The episode appears to be another example of the limits of the conservative insurgence in Washington, where Democrats control the Senate and the White House. It also has magnified Republican unease with Cruz’s style and tactics.
Cruz has been in the Senate less than a year, but already is seen as a potential GOP presidential contender. He has defied the unspoken Senate rule that new lawmakers maintain a low profile and defer to senior colleagues.