On Sept. 24, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, finished an enormous speech on the Senate floor, weighing in at a whopping 21 hours and 19 minutes. This was one of the longest speeches in Senate history, surpassed only by Strom Thurmond’s 1957 filibuster against the Civil Rights Act, Al D’Amato’s 1986 filibuster against a military bill, and Wayne Morse’s 1953 filibuster against the Tidelands Oil bill. Cruz spoke out mostly against Obamacare.
Cruz’s speech was not a filibuster in the traditional sense because he would have had to yield the floor for a vote at 3 p.m. Sept. 26 regardless of whether or not he was able to continue speaking. However, while Cruz spoke primarily against Obamacare, his real goal was to prevent the Senate from voting on a temporary spending bill that would have prevented a government shutdown.
The current spending bill on the House and Senate floors (known as the Continuing Resolution, or CR) funds the government through Dec. 15 (a whopping three months from now!) but provides no funding for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Cruz wants to block these bills from being voted on because the Democrats will amend them to restore funding for Obamacare. Cruz is, in effect, blocking his party’s own legislation simply to prolong the period in which the spending bill is not voted on because it will inevitably not pass and then be returned to the House so that Democrats can alter it and tack Obamacare funding onto it.
Let’s get one thing clear: Obamacare will not be defunded. The president will veto any spending bill that does not include funding for Obamacare, and Republicans will find it almost impossible to pass a bill over the president’s veto unless the Democrats suddenly become really, really spineless. The Republican Party has introduced 41 bills to defund Obamacare this year alone and has failed to pass any of them. Don’t they know when they’ve been beaten? Why are the Republicans even bothering to make an effort to defund Obamacare?
The answer is fairly clear: The Republican Party wants to break the government.
Think about it — I dislike partisanism, and I do not like to blame one party for all the country’s problems, but just look at how the average Republican candidate’s platform is structured. Virtually every Republican is elected on a platform of “slimming down the government” or “reducing government bloat” or “making the government more efficient” or some such thing. What would happen if the government actually worked? What would happen if there was a small and efficient government? There would be no reason to vote Republican. There would be no way to scare people into voting Republican with threats of “big government” because it wouldn’t actually exist. The Republican Party platform depends on the government not working, and it is against the party’s own best interests to allow the government to function effectively.
So, in effect, they are ensuring their re-electability by breaking the government. The angrier people are at the government, the more likely they are to vote Republican, and the vicious cycle continues. The people who promised us “fiscal conservatism” gave us such wonders as the welfare drug test program in Florida that costs much more than it saves, unsustainable tax cuts, and our bloated military budget. They promise “small government” that “doesn’t intrude in our private lives,” and yet they support abortion bans, actively attempt to deny people the right to marry the person they love, and have no problem with the NSA monitoring all Internet activity. The party is an exercise in contradictions, and this is what makes its members so electable.
The real question is this: How far are they willing to take this Obamacare fight? They will probably shut down the government this fall. There’s almost no time left in which to pass a temporary spending bill, and the amendment process will make this time even longer. What is worse, though, is that there is also a genuine chance that they may not allow an increase in the debt ceiling in time, which has never happened before.
If we hit the debt ceiling, no one knows what will happen. The government will be unable to borrow more money to pay for things, and people’s checks will bounce. This could be anyone’s checks, from Social Security to checks for government contractors’ work to military paychecks. How the government will prioritize payments or even function without being able to borrow money is completely unknown. We could theoretically start printing more money, but that would lead to serious inflation. We could also just allow checks to bounce, but that would make many people very angry and kill our nation’s credit rating, which could crash the world economy. There is no precedent for the debt limit being hit in the U.S. or any other first-world nation, for that matter. It would be a catastrophe.
Is it really worth it?
Justin Roczniak is the Op-ed editor of The Triangle. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.