It was precisely eight o’clock on Tuesday evening and the US Senate chamber was nearly empty when Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz started reading Green Eggs and Ham, aloud.
Sure, it was a filibuster, sort of. And the Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate had been talking for five hours, with many more promised as part of an effort to block funding for US President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
However, it was his kids’ bedtime, Cruz said.
They were watching him on TV and needed their bedtime story.
Hopefully they went to sleep before Cruz segued from “Sam I Am” to Obamacare. “Green eggs and ham,” Cruz said, “has some applicability to the Obamacare bill.”
Just how it applied to Obamacare was never made very clear.
However, clarity fades in a filibuster, and the talker has to keep on talking or reading.
Strom Thurmond, the late senator from South Carolina, had read the US Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and then-US president George Washington’s Farewell address during his fabled 1957 filibuster to block civil rights legislation. That one lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes, still the record.
Alfonse D’Amato, then senator from New York, resorted to the phone book during his filibuster, an attempt to delay a 1986 military spending bill.
Filibusters are experiencing a revival. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky staged one earlier this year. Senator Wendy Davis filibustered in the Texas State Senate for 11 hours to block an abortion bill.
Technically, the Cruz talkathon was not a filibuster. While the legislation at issue was a Republican measure to keep the government open and Obamacare closed, the Senate was actually adjourned and the members had already decided not to let Cruz or anyone else block a vote.
His talking would have no impact on the outcome of the debate and would not go down in history as a filibuster.
However, it did have some history-making possibilities.
Three potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders assisted in the talkathon, senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Paul and Cruz.
Paul and Rubio played crucial roles, asking Cruz lengthy questions, which under Senate rules allowed him to take short breaks without “yielding the floor” that would end the filibuster.
Thanks to Paul and Rubio and a few other colleagues, Cruz was briefly free to move about the Senate, with his hands in his pockets, sometimes with his arms folded at his chest.