Yesterday, Sen.Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) announcement that he would filibuster Obamacare took media attention across the country. It was as if nothing else was happening. But he doesn’t understand what a filibuster actually is. His colleague in the Texas state senate, Wendy Davis, understands the filibuster as she stood for over 11 hours, not touching any furniture, not eating or drinking, not using the restroom, and speaking alone on one specific subject. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) allowed Cruz to give a really long speech in which he read a children’s book and stopped speaking while other senators took up his time. He didn’t block or stop anything, the way that Davis did; he just wasted time.
During his 21-hour speech, Cruz compared fellow Republicans to Nazi appeasers, said that most people in Washington wear “cheap suits with bad haircuts,” and took time out to read a book to his adoring daughters as tweeted by Jason Johnson. The daughters are very fortunate in having health care; Cruz represents a state in which 33% of adults and 17% of children have no health insurance.
The selection of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham might have seemed a good choice for anyone who didn’t read the entire book–like a Fox network host. Cruz said that the complaints about eating green eggs and ham were exactly like Obamacare—people didn’t want it. The book, however, makes a point about being open to experiences because at the end the character gives in, eats the food—and likes it. The character even says, “Thank you!”
On Slate, Matthew Yglesias points out the similarity of the book to Obamacare: “The Democrats’ bet on the Affordable Care Act is that it’s like green eggs and ham—they’re convinced the public will like it when they try it.” Yglesias continues with the explanation that’s going through the media like a virus, that the GOP is desperate to repeal Obamacare before it takes effect because people will find that they love it.
There’s a story circulating about a man who looked at Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare, and said, “That’s better than Obamacare.”
Although Cruz might think that the Republican party is ready for an anti-establishment candidate like himself, it hasn’t happened for 50 years when Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) ran for president—and lost. “When the Wall Street Journal starts to belittle you… That’s what these people read every day,” said one senior GOP aide, explaining why Cruz won’t be getting the donors with deep pockets.
For a supposedly bright man, Cruz has a lot of negative baggage. He threatened to support the Second Amendment by bringing his own gun into a committee meeting and encouraging others to do the same thing. After Cruz and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) sent a memo to that effect, federal law enforcement officials made sure that the senators left their weapons at home.
Cruz wanted to impeach Obama for no good reason, and he questioned Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s patriotism. If the United Nations didn’t stop China’s policy of one child per couple, Cruz threatened to pull U.S. funding from the U.N. meant for peace-keeping missions and assistance to refugees. Cruz has never liked the U.N. because he thinks that the organization is trying to get rid of golf courses in the United States.
While Cruz advocates Christian churches be allowed to endorse political candidates, he declared that Islamic law in the United States is “an enormous problem.” Trying now to look as if he’s not part of the elite, Cruz refused to study with anyone at Harvard Law School who hadn’t been an undergraduate at Harvard, Princeton, or Yale.
The greatest irony is that Cruz’s speech was directed at a bill that the House had passed. In essence, he was delaying the vote on a bill that 217 GOP House members had approved. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said,”We’d be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we’re in favor of.” After Cruz spoke for 21 hours, the Senate voted 100-0—including Cruz’s vote—to vote on the bill.
Last March Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Cruz a wacko so Cruz is now declaring that McCain lost the 2008 presidential election because conservatives wouldn’t vote for him. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said that Cruz didn’t understand how much damage would be caused to the GOP if they shut the government down as they did in 1995-96. Other GOP legislators are unhappy with Cruz although not as openly.
As an ambitious politician, Cruz seems to be all about getting donations to his potential presidential campaign. Most of the money coming into Defund, Inc. is directed toward Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and the Senate Conservatives Fund. The month of August, typically slow for fundraisers, saw $1.5 million go into SCF’s account along with the names of 1.5 million people who signed the defund petition on the Don’tFundObamaCare website.
The SCF, presumably a Republican PAC, has run ads attacking seven GOP senators, including Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, and Lindsey Graham, for not opposing Obamacare enough, even though they all voted against the bill and said they would vote to defund it. Last week, the SCF announced it would also run ads against House Republicans if they fail to embrace the right defund strategy. Haley Barbour, former Mississippi governor and RNC chairman, said:
“The House of Representatives has voted to repeal Obamacare in one form or another something like 40 times since it went into effect, yet some of these groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund or the Club for Growth attack the same Republicans who voted against OC, but they attack them over tactics. There is just no excuse.”
A lesser known reason that the GOP is bitterly fighting against the implementation of Obamacare is that it registers voters. When uninsured people, primarily low-income and minority applicants, sign up for health care exchanges, they will be asked if they want to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), aka the Motor Voter law, directs DMVs and other public assistance state agencies to provide voter registration services. Both state-run exchanges and the federally-run exchanges in states where GOP governors refuse to set them up will be required to comply with the Motor Voter law.
Rush Limbaugh declared in June that Obamacare is “about building a permanent, undefeatable, always-funded Democrat majority.” Last spring Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) wrote to HHS, charging that the health care law “does not give your Department an interest in whether individual Americans choose to vote” and asking HHS to provide justification for including voter registration questions in health insurance applications.
Some conservative legal scholars argue that exchanges don’t fall under the Motor Voter law’s definition of social service providers because they operate as a marketplace for private insurance. The exchanges, however, also provide government subsidies, and HHS made it clear that all health care exchanges would need to provide voter registration services. The 24 million mostly low-income and minority uninsured folks who are expected to purchase insurance through the exchanges are particularly likely to be unregistered to vote. Not having health insurance is one of the strongest indicators that someone will not vote, according to Lake Research, a political strategy research firm.
Only 65 percent of eligible voters in the US are registered to vote, and scores of new voting laws from GOP legislatures are putting barriers between many people and the voting booths.
At least 140 million people registered in the two decades wince the Motor Voter law took effect. If Obamacare is responsible for increased voter registration, it could change democracy in the United States. Following the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, senior voter turnout rates rose while turnout for other age groups dropped. Midterm turnout for seniors rose from 66 percent to 73 percent between 1958 and 1998 alone, and now seniors vote at an historically high rate. As Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Health Care Reform and American Politics, explained, “The passage of Social Security gave seniors resources and motivation and identity as beneficiaries that got them to the polls.”
The same scenario will likely play out among poor and minority voters who often feel disconnected from politics and government, Jacobs added. They will soon receive “tangible benefits” through the Affordable Care Act and will be motivated to hold onto those benefits by voting. “Obamacare will define a new constituency,” Jacobs concluded.
In the New York Times Frank Bruni called Cruz’s speech “grandstanding”:
“This week [Cruz] is blithely putting the lawmakers in his party between a rock and a hard place. If they fail to match the anti-Obamacare passion that he flexed anew in a Senate speech Monday, they’ll land on the far right’s watch list. But if they match it and the government shuts down, there’s a good chance that the Republican Party takes the blame and a hit it can ill afford.”
An informal U.S. News & World Report survey shows that over 81 percent of respondents believe that the GOP threats to shut down the government to defund Obamacare will hurt the party.
The Obamacare health exchanges open in six days. Be afraid, GOP—be very afraid.
For some educational entertainment, check out Jon Stewart’s take on Ted Cruz.