By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
The “filibuster” is a way for representatives of a government to delay or stop a law from going forward, often by talking for hours non-stop to prevent organizations from voting on laws. One of the first filibustering politicians was Roman senator Cato the Younger in 60 BC. He’d speak continuously until nightfall, effectively delaying votes because the Roman Senate had a rule that required all business to be finished by the evening. It is a strategy that’s made an appearance in many nations and governments ever since, especially in the US Senate.
Recently, the filibuster has been used in some very dramatic ways to take on tricky issues. In March, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul performed a filibuster, talking for more than 12 hours against the right of the US government to use military drone attacks on its citizens. He claimed victory, because the White House eventually came out and said that drones won’t be used to harm regular citizens unless they’re enemy combatants (anti-US war fighters). In June, Texas Senator Wendy Davis pulled off an 11-hour filibuster where she couldn’t even take a bathroom break, sit down, or lean on anything, in order to fight for women’s personal health rights. She succeeded in performing the filibuster late enough into the night to stop a law, but Governor Rick Perry decided not to play by the rules and let the vote pass in a special meeting.
This week, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas carried on a 21-hour speech in the US Senate to fight the Affordable Care Act – often called “Obamacare” – that he believes would increase medical and business costs, while lowering the quality of health care. As Obamacare nears the October 1 launch date for many of its changes, Republicans have been battling it very strongly in the House of Representatives. However, no matter how many times they’ve tried to defund (take away money from) Obamacare , their efforts can’t ever really move beyond the Democrat-controlled Senate.
While Cruz’s long-winded debate about the Affordable Care Act was not technically a filibuster (because he wasn’t able to prevent the Senate from having its vote on Wednesday), it definitely grabbed national attention and won him a lot of support from voters in his home state. Since the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded, he hoped to add his momentum to that pressure. His speech was sometimes humorous, using Star Wars quotes, reading from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, and talking about his favorite hamburgers, but he spent most of it examining his concerns about the upcoming healthcare changes.
Image and video courtesy of Senator Ted Cruz on YouTube.