My The West Wing binge has brought me to some interesting Wikipedia articles. The most recent is the page for the longest senate filibusters though using “senate” as a qualifier is a bit redundant. Of the two federal legislative bodies in the United States, the Senate is the only one with the rules permitting members to maintain the floor indefinitely, on any topic, during the course of debate. The 27th Congress’ House of Reps instituted time limits for debate in 1842 which makes sense as the House had more than twice the number of members as the Senate at 242 and time was all the more scarce.
Coming in at number 4 on the longest filibusters list is Texas’ own Ted Cruz who was speaking out against the Affordable Care Act in 2013. Well, that’s a bit of a simplification. The ACA had already been passed and signed by that point so Cruz was really speaking against funding the ACA. The plan was to delay the routine annual appropriations vote (which sets the federal budget) long enough that Democrats would worry about the government shutting down and acquiesce to revoking funding for the ACA. The strategy didn’t work. In fact, there was significant publicity fallout from the plan. Senate Democrats didn’t cave and “allowed” the government to shut down for 16 days. Unsurprisingly, Senate Republicans took a lot of flak for the gambit. If you ask me, Cruz and Co. should have anticipated the criticism. After all, for the plan to work they’d had to assume the Democrats didn’t want the government to shut down. Right off the bat, that sets the stage for Democrats to be headlined as the heroes of the spectacle.
The real kicker is that the shut down distracted folks away from the real dirt: The completely bungled deployment of the HealthCare.gov website.