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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid