News / USA

Trying to Kill a Bill with Talk

In an image made from the C-Span broadcast, Senator Ted Cruz continues to speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate at 5:21 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.
In an image made from the C-Span broadcast, Senator Ted Cruz continues to speak on the floor of the U.S. Senate at 5:21 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.
VOA News
For 21 hours and 19 minutes, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz made his case against Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act, on the Senate floor.

When he began around 2:40 pm Tuesday, he declared he would speak out against funding the act until he "is no longer able to stand."



Media outlets described his speech as a "fake filibuster" or a "faux filibuster," and even, political theater.

All of this made us wonder exactly what a filibuster is. We turned to VOA Senate Correspondent Michael Bowman to find out.

Michael Bowman: "Well, a filibuster is a procedural motion. It is something that happens in the Senate from time to time. It is used quite often today. It was not used so often in the past. The word 'filibuster' actually comes from a Dutch word, meaning 'pirate.' The idea being that a pirate may seize control of your ship and belongings, and a senator who is filibustering seizes control of the Senate floor.

VOA: What is the idea behind a filibuster?

Michael Bowman: "A filibuster comes from the Senate tradition that the Senate is the chamber of ample and unlimited debate. And what a senator may do when a bill is being debated, is come to the floor and speak on an unlimited basis. And it used to be that a senator could come and speak for as long as he could stand or until his energy gave out.  Now, most filibusters are conducted silently. A senator simply puts a motion in for a “hold” to hold up a bill, and the only way to break that is with a 60 vote majority. That is how a filibuster is broken, when 60 out of 100 senators come together.

VOA: So, exactly what was Senator Cruz doing?

Michael Bowman:  "Senator Cruz gave a very, very long speech that began on Tuesday afternoon and he continued up ‘til about noon on Wednesday, talking for a total of 21 hours. He used time that is allotted to senators to debate. During those 21 and hours and 19 minutes, Cruz had control of the Senate floor, but he was on a time limit. And that limit was reached at 12 p.m. Wednesday, at which time the senator simply sat down and stopped speaking. Noon is when the Senate formally began the day's business, meaning all those hours before was actually an extension of yesterday's business. 

Now Senate majority leader Harry Reid will call for a vote on the legislation that includes the provision on Obamacare. Were this a true filibuster, Senator Cruz would be able to speak and speak and speak and speak and speak and there is no way he could be interrupted. Actually, a filibuster is talking a bill to death."

VOA: How effective are filibusters historically speaking?
 
Michael Bowman
: "Filibusters are very effective. Some people believe that, in fact, the filibuster has ground the Senate and Congress and our nation's entire political system to a halt. In effect, all votes of consequence today require 60 votes to move forward - that is a super majority.  Three-fifths of the Senate now on almost any bill of consequence in order for that bill to move forward. So that has had a tremendous impact."

Earlier this year, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky had a marathon session on the Senate floor where he spoke for 13 hours on a bill regarding the use of unmanned aircraft -- drones -- on United States soil."

VOA:  Not to be indelicate, but there are certain human needs that must be attended to. How is this issue handled in a traditional filibuster?

Michael Bowman: "The way that it works is that when a senator, when he or she is speaking, has the floor until he or she gives it up. However the senator can yield for a question. And it is understood that another senator can come to the floor and ask a question and if the senator who is engaging in a filibuster or a long speech (as in the case of Senator Cruz) yields to that request, a question may be asked and the senator will answer.   

However, the definition of what constitutes a question is fairly flexible. And, in fact, what has been happening is that Senator Cruz did not speak on the floor non-stop for those 21 hours and 19 minutes. He has been speaking for long periods of time, then yielding for a questions have gone on for 15 minutes or a half an hour, and in a couple of cases even longer, and that gave the senator the chance to leave the Senate floor and take care of human needs. I believe he did not get any sleep during that period, but he did leave the floor at times while maintaining control."  

The Cruz marathon speech garnered a variety of reactions on Twitter.  Here is a sampling:

VOA's Catherine Maddux contributed to this article.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 26, 2013 7:34 AM
Filibuster is all about saying nothing but ensuring that the bill on row is defeated by not having good contributions that would have helped it. Ted Cruz acted like a man. He was saving America for more reasons than defeat Obamacare. If all the bills before the house have to be filibustered, USA will be saved from itself, its leaders and make them run the administration more reasonably, and not spend in excess of what comes in. If I have not lost my count, this may be about the 4th time the presidency of Obama is asking for borrowing raise. And Sen. Cruz must be working with that in mind, rather than just Obamacare which may or may not add any value to American lifestyles.


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
September 25, 2013 8:14 PM
This speech reminds me of a proverb, eloquence is silver, silence is gold. This speech is not constructive, but a speech for the purpose of only to oppose.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid