Originally from Cincinnati, OH, Kate Harsh is a sophomore in the Vanderbilt School of Engineering. She is an Engineering Science major, an Engineering Management minor, and is Pre-Med. Despite the fact that much of her coursework focuses on science and engineering, she has been interested in politics since her freshman year of high school and is particularly interested in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. In addition to VPR, Kate is involved in starting up a Vanderbilt chapter of Advocates for World Health, is a mentor in The Afterschool Program (TAP), and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers and of Pi Beta Phi sorority. This is Kate's second year on the Editorial Board and Layout Team of Vanderbilt Political Review.
After 21 hours and 19 minutes, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) ended his marathon speech at noon on September 25, 2013, when the Senate day adjourned. However, Cruz’s speech, though impressive in length, cannot be considered a filibuster. A filibuster is often defined as “talking on the Senate floor for an extended period of time in order to prevent action on measure,” which Cruz’s speech did not have the power to do as Senate Democrats had already filed cloture to set up a vote after two days. The purpose of the bill was to authorize government spending, and without an agreement from the House and Senate, the government would shut down on September 30. The Republican-controlled House passed a bill to fund the government but defund Obamacare on September 20. While the Senator was certainly aware that such a bill would never pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate and that Obama has also threatened his veto power, Cruz’s “faux-libuster,” as the Internet has dubbed it, though not designed to accomplish anything measurable in the Senate, was not pointless.
Cruz claimed the purpose of his speech was to “make D.C. listen,” and claims he wasn’t elected to the Senate to stay quiet. He succeeded, garnering a large amount of national attention and making a name for himself, both in a negative and positive way. The negative attention he received is more obvious. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tweeted when Cruz sat down, “With all due respect to Sen. Cruz, I’m not sure we learned anything new. It’s been interesting, but it’s also been a big waste of time.” Many have criticized Cruz for his time-wasting filibuster given the necessity of passing a government-spending bill. Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was angry at Cruz’s “extended oratory,” believing that while the fight against Obamacare is admirable, it is not worth shutting down the government, a sentiment that the majority of Americans share. A government shutdown would be catastrophic, shutting down hundreds of federal agencies from Federal Departments to national parks. Given that Cruz voted to move ahead on a spending plan including funding for Obamacare along with the 99 other Senators, he clearly realizes the importance of passing legislation, despite his 21-hour opposition speech.
Perhaps less apparent are the positive effects that came from Cruz’s speech. He established himself as a capable politician and a man with convictions. There are rumors that he may be considering a bid for president in the 2016 election, and his speech made “sure that every single conservative Republican in the country knows that on the single issue that animates and unites them most, he’s their guy.” He noted that no one else was willing to stand against Obamacare on principle like he is. Additionally, regardless of how anyone feels about Obamacare or Ted Cruz, it’s undeniable that he can speak well. The ability to speak substantively for most of the time and even debate for 21 hours consecutively is extremely impressive, and the thought of what Cruz would be like in a hypothetical presidential debate is intriguing. Cruz particularly won the support of staunch conservatives who stood with and respected him throughout his entire marathon speech, despite the time-wasting criticism he received from many politicians and individuals.
Ultimately, Senator Cruz never intended to change the outcome of the spending bill with his speech, knowing that causing a government shutdown would not only be terrible, but would reflect extremely poorly on himself and on the Republican Party. His goal was to get America’s attention, to express his strict adherence to his principles, and most importantly, to establish himself as a major political figure in the Republican Party for today and for the future.