WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Ted Cruz took to the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday and vowed to speak until he’s “no longer able to stand.” The tea party-backed Republican from Houston wants Congress to force a partial shutdown of the federal government rather than approve funding for the White House-backed health care law.
But his marathon speech may not be even the most-famous made by a Texan this year. In June, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth stood for more than 12 hours on the floor of the Texas Senate to temporarily block a series of strict new limits on abortion statewide. Here’s five ways their filibusters are different:
YOU GOTTA HAVE SOLE: Cruz wore black tennis shoes. Davis donned hot-pink sneakers.
RELAXED RULES: Cruz is prohibited from leaving the Senate floor and not allowed to eat, drink or take a bathroom break. He must talk continually but can do so on any subject. Cruz also is free to yield for questions from fellow senators — which he did less than an hour in, allowing Mike Lee of Utah to ask questions while he rested his voice.
Davis, under Texas Senate filibuster rules, had to talk without interruption, but only about the bill she opposed. Davis too was allowed to yield for questions and her Democratic colleagues offered them to give her a break. But, unlike the U.S. Senate, Texas has a three-strikes rule that eventually allowed state Senate Republicans to silence Davis. They twice raised objections to her speaking on matters not directly related to the abortion bill and once for having a colleague help her into a back brace.
NO PROTESTS: Cruz delivered his speech to a chamber mostly devoid of his fellow senators. The public gallery featured only a few visitors, none of whom came to protest. Davis’ effort was watched closely by colleagues in both parties and attracted thousands of orange-clad abortion rights activists who thronged the Texas Senate gallery and surrounding hallways of the state Capitol. When Davis was silenced using parliamentary procedure just before midnight, the protesters screamed and chanted so loudly that all work on the floor stopped until it was too late to pass bills.
FAILURE FORETOLD: Cruz is urging his colleagues to oppose moving ahead on a bill that would prevent a government shutdown while defunding the White House-backed health care overhaul. He is trying to prevent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from stripping the health care provision. But Cruz faces stiff opposition, even from his fellow Republicans — and a vote set for Wednesday will occur even if he’s still speaking.
Davis, with the help of the protesters, succeeded in blocking the abortion bill temporarily. But Gov. Rick Perry called a new, 30-day special session and the Legislature approved the law mere weeks later.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cruz has been in the Senate less than a year but is already being mentioned as a possible White House contender in 2016. He is likely to use his marathon speech as an example of standing for conservative principles — even if he’s ultimately unsuccessful. Davis is poised to run for governor. She will reveal her plans Oct. 3.