You might have heard about the “brave” one-man filibuster that “courageous” Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas waged last night in his lone effort to shut down the government in order to defund Obamacare.
But what you might not have heard was that the entire thing was a lie. It wasn’t a filibuster at all.
Let me walk you through what a real filibuster is, and then what Ted Cruz actually did, which was nothing (except advance his aspirations to the presidency).
A real filibuster is an attempt to stop a piece of legislation dead in its tracks by refusing to let the Senate proceed. That can happen in a number of ways, including the famous “Mr. Smith Goes to the Washington” way where the Senator talks the Senate to death. But here’s the thing. While Senator Cruz and the Republicans want you to believe that Cruz pulled a Mr. Smith, he didn’t.
Senator Cruz’s long-winded overnight speech did nothing to stop the Senate from proceeding with the continuing resolution for the budget. And everyone, Cruz included, knew it wouldn’t.
Cruz’ speech wasn’t some effort to keep talking until the bill died. It was an agreement he’d made with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid to let him talk for 21 hours or so, followed by a vote at 1pm ET today.
Had Cruz not spoken a lick last night, instead of spoken for 21 hours, the vote would still have been today at 1pm ET.
It wasn’t a filibuster any more than Senator McConnell relieving himself during that same period was a filibuster.
Now, one can argue that the attempt to force a vote to proceed with the bill was in fact itself “filibustering,” and the term has often been used of late to describe such things. The vote itself imperiled the legislation, thus it was itself a form of filibuster. But Cruz’ speech didn’t imperil anything. It wasn’t even necessary. And there was no danger of Cruz speaking forever and killing the bill – the definition of a true filibuster – as Cruz had already agreed with Reid in advance that he would only speak until 1pm today, and in fact, he quit an hour early.
Now, Cruz did successfully delay the bill a day. Not that that accomplished anything. But it simply wasn’t a filibuster. A filibuster, at its most basic, is when you don’t know the outcome of what’s taking place.
Oh, and one more thing that marks this as “not” a filibuster. After Cruz finished talking, he voted in favor of moving ahead with the bill. That’s an odd thing to do if you’re holding a filibuster, the point of which is to stop the bill from moving forward.
This wasn’t about Mr. Smith going to Washington. It was about Mr. Cruz going to the White House.