It is not often a U.S. senator speaks for 21 hours against debating a bill that he, and his 99 colleagues, then promptly vote to begin debating a few minutes later.
But on Tuesday night, Sen. Ted Cruz (a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, but thankfully not Yale) gave a speech and did just that.
I say speech, and not filibuster, because the Republican senator from Texas was actually concerned with his own airtime, not stopping a bill. His “fauxlibuster” (as it has been dubbed) was Cruz versus Obama. Cruz versus Obamacare. Cruz, Cruz, Cruz. Welcome to Ted Cruz Storytime!
And it was a disgusting display of his disregard for the hard work of governing, and his utter misuse of the stories of Theodor Geisel.
Let me explain: Ted Cruz pushed House Republicans to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government without funding Obamacare. When they actually did so, he hastily tried to figure out how to prevent the Senate taking a vote on the plan he supports so that they wouldn’t have an alternative to send back to the House.
So Cruz, unable to actually filibuster, asked Majority Leader Harry Reid for permission to give a long floor speech — again, not to filibuster, just to showboat. Harry Reid seemed thrilled to let Ted Cruz become the face of Republican obstructionism.
But Cruz’s speech was more than just an infuriating waste of time from a government that has gotten really good at wasting time. It was his attempt to theatrically shutdown government because he doesn’t like Obamacare.
We all get it — congressional Republicans don’t like Obamacare. Forty-two attempts in the House to repeal the law make that abundantly clear. But Republicans lost the last presidential election by 6 percent of the popular vote. They failed to win the Senate in an advantageous year. They actually lost seats in the House. And in every race in 2012, Obamacare was a critical issue.
Congressional Republicans should stop wasting all of our time. Governing requires a modicum of maturity and willingness to compromise. Governing and Ted Cruz are apparently incompatible.
So the most revealing moment of Cruz’s soliloquy was when he took a time-out to read “Green Eggs and Ham” to his daughters. “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am, I do not like green eggs and ham!” Cruz thundered Dr. Seuss’ words into an otherwise-empty Senate chamber. “Give Mommy a hug and a kiss, brush your teeth, say your prayers, and Daddy is going to be home soon to read to you in person,” he finished sadly to the camera, as though he were physically prevented from being with his daughters. As though it were his great burden, not a disgraceful dereliction of duty, to blow 21 hours’ worth of hot air.
Since I am Sam, I want to point something out. The irony is that at the end of the story, the narrator — Cruz, in this case — realizes that he actually does like green eggs and ham after all. He realizes that his mule-headed stubbornness is foolish. “Say, I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!”
No one is asking Cruz to support Obamacare — not in a boat, not with a goat, neither here nor there, not anywhere. What we’re asking is that Cruz fulfill the duties of the office he took an oath to carry out. We’re asking him to stop running for president three years too early and start governing one year too late.
There are thousands of fathers right now serving overseas who are actually prevented by the duties of their jobs from reading bedtime stories to their kids. They don’t get to decide to shut everything down because they’re grumpy about a law passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court. They don’t decide whether to do their jobs based on who is president.
Cruz may be exhausted after his marathon speech. And while his daughters may have liked “Green Eggs and Ham,” the rest of the country could do with a bedtime story that doesn’t just serve to highlight Cruz’s damaging intransigence.
Sam Cohen is a junior in Calhoun College. This column expresses his personal views only and not the views of Yale NROTC, the Department of Defense or any other entity. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.