Funding and Filibusters

Another Texan is monopolizing the Senate floor, but this time it isn’t a filibuster and I’m not inspired.

Starting on Tuesday afternoon, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) made a 21-hour speech against Obamacare, but it wasn’t a filibuster. It was long, he wasn’t allowed to sit or leave the floor, and he was passionate. So why is this not a filibuster?

Technically, Senator Cruz was not interfering with the Senate’s business. There was a vote at 1pm today to begin debate on the continuing resolution the House passed, and Ted Cruz had the floor until then. It would only be a filibuster if he had 41 Senators who would refuse to vote to proceed to debate. Majority Leader Reid had the 60 votes he needed to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to debate of the continuing resolution, so Ted Cruz’s speech was merely grandstanding.

Cloture is a motion to end debate on a topic and needs the support of 60 Senators to pass. This particular cloture vote was used to signify that Senators wanted to proceed to debating the bill the House had passed. Basically, the Senate had to vote to end debate before they could have a debate.

After Senator Cruz’s marathon speech, the Senate voted to proceed to debate 100-0. Not only did Senator Cruz not prevent the Senate from voting to begin the debate, he voted to begin debate on the measure. The Senate now has 30 hours to debate the continuing resolution that will fund the government until mid-December before they vote on it. It is likely that the Democratic-majority Senate will strip the provision that defunds Obamacare. This means the bill will be sent back to the House for a final vote. It’s beginning to look like the vote to fund our government for another month and a half will come down to the wire.

First Published: September 25, 2013