September 25, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) after finishing his overnight crusade in the Senate. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) after finishing his overnight crusade in the Senate. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Soon after Sen. Ted Cruz’s long, long, speech, a cloture vote was finally taken. The result? 100 Senators supported ending debate. No senator — not even Cruz and Mike Lee — opposed it.

In other words: Since Monday, Cruz, Lee, and other Republicans were forcing a delay of something that they themselves didn’t object to. It’s delay and obstruction for their own sake.

For those who have followed the Senate since 2009, this will seem, alas, awfully familiar. Again and again, Republicans have obstructed things — mainly nominations, sometimes legislation — that they didn’t actually oppose. Why? Because if it takes three days of Senate time instead of an hour to work through a nomination that everyone supports, then there are three fewer days available for Democrats to do things that Republicans do oppose. So we’ve seen filibusters that lasted for months, only to end with unanimous confirmation.

Now, this isn’t the final vote on the bill; in fact, what was being obstructed so far wasn’t the bill, or the procedures, or anything else; it was merely the “motion to proceed” to the bill. That is, to start considering the bill that would keep the government open beyond Monday. Now, I’m not as worried as some that we’ll just run out of time to get this one passed; if necessary, and if time is the only issue, Congress can always pass a one or two or three day temporary measure to keep the government open for business until the bigger continuing resolution is agreed to. Still, people are uncertain, and delays at this point are not helpful.

I certainly can understand the point of wanting a vote on the House’s Affordable Care Act provision; I can even understand the point of wanting to make the key vote on “defunding” into a relatively obscure procedural vote later this week, as Cruz and Lee are planning on doing. But this first filibuster of the week — the filibuster over getting to the bill in the first place, a filibuster that chewed up three days despite no Republican actually willing to step up and vote for it — that filibuster was just obstruction for the sake of obstruction. And that’s no way to run a government.