The ultimate showdown between establishment Republicans and the conservative fringe revealed itself Tuesday in the form of a faux filibuster.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wore black sneakers on the Senate floor Tuesday as he embarked on what could be a 20-hour talkathon. The senator spoke to a nearly empty chamber about the problems with President Barack Obama's health care law, hitting the popular talking points that the law has led businesses to lay off workers and raised consumer premiums.
"The facts show it is not working," Cruz said.. "If you get beyond the team mentality, and you ask 'is this thing good?', it is very hard on the merits to make the case that it is."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, came in for a few assists, taking the podium to give Cruz a chance to rest his voice.
But Cruz continued to stand against Obamacare. The exercise wasn't technically a filibuster. It cannot stop the Senate from moving forward on a bill to keep the government funded. The Senate will vote Wednesday regardless of Cruz's speech, even if he speaks through the night.
But it may be Cruz's last stand, and it certainly will help him to shore up his base.
While Republican leaders in the Senate dismissed Cruz's tactics, blaming him for holding up a temporary funding bill and perhaps even costing the GOP political points, Cruz was resolute.
He blasted members of his own caucus for surrendering the fight to shu tdown the government and stop Obamacare.
"They're not listening to the concerns of their constituents. They're not listening to the jobs lost, to the people forced into part-time work, to the people losing their health insurance, to the people who are struggling," Cruz said. "A great many Americans feel that they don't have a voice. And so I hope to play some very small part in helping provide that voice for them."
During the GOP's caucus luncheon Tuesday, leaders and rank-and-file Republicans tried to convince Lee and Cruz to abandon their "kamikaze mission," give up their Senate floor speechifying and allow the Senate to move on to a bill to keep the government's lights on.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lamented that dragging out the process to pass the continuing resolution, the stopgap funding bill to keep the government operating, actually hurt Republicans.
If Cruz and Lee run out the clock at every procedural hurdle, McConnell said it could keep Republicans from being able to negotiate for some smaller items like a repeal of the medical device tax in the CR
"If the House does not get what we send over there until Monday, they are in a pretty tough spot," McConnell said during a press conference Tuesday. "I would hate to put them in a tough spot."