- W. Gardner Selby American-Statesman Staff
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, famous and infamous for his 2013 filibuster-like talk-a-thon that included his reading a Dr. Seuss story to his daughters watching from home, no longer favors preserving a rule that makes it hard to stop a filibuster.
Did the Texas senator flip-flop? We put that question to our PolitiFact Texas Flip-O-Meter.
In the 100-person Senate, a filibuster (from a Dutch word meaning pirate) can’t be broken unless the senator in the spotlight gives way or foes raise 60 votes to invoke “cloture,” bringing debate to a close. Senators set that threshold, which breaks out to a three-fifths majority, in 1975. For decades before, according to a Senate web page, it had taken a two-thirds vote to invoke cloture.
Cruz, a Republican lawyer, said in 2015 he wouldn’t support elimination of the 60-vote hurdle — even to advance his goal of repealing the Obamacare law put in place by Democrats.
According to a Roll Call news story, Cruz told Heritage Action’s Jan. 12, 2015, policy summit that Republicans should do “everything humanly possible to repeal Obamacare.” But, the story said, Cruz said that he believed Senate Republicans, while in the majority, shouldn’t eliminate the filibuster as a tactic to get more legislation to then-President Barack Obama.
“No, we should not,” Cruz said. “We should preserve the procedural protections in the Senate for the rights of the minority.”
Cruz then borrowed an analogy used by the framers of the Constitution by saying the Senate is “like the saucer under the tea cup to cool deliberations, and I think those checks and balances were inspired. And one of the ways to limit rash decision-making is the requirement in the Senate of a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.”
This September, however, Cruz said at a Texas tea party forum that he’s changed his mind and now favors an end to the 60-vote threshold to end a filibuster.
The Texas Tribune reported that Cruz was asked at the forum whether he supports ending the filibuster rule. The story said Cruz called for ending the filibuster rule, acknowledging it is an “issue on which I’ve changed my mind over the last five years.”
We asked Cruz spokesman Phil Novack to confirm whether Cruz’s position had changed. Yes, Novack replied, pointing us to a Facebook-posted video of the Sept. 30 NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting where Cruz was asked about eliminating the 60-vote threshold.
At the meeting, Cruz replied, to applause: “Long and short out of it, I would end the 60-vote filibuster right now.”
His answer went on: “Now let me give you some context on that because that’s actually an issue on which I’ve changed my mind over the last five years.
“So if you’d asked me five years ago, I would have had a different answer. And the reason is as follows: I think over time, the 60-vote threshold for legislation has had a small ‘c’ conservative effect in that it has slowed down the operation of Congress. Since World War II, we’ve had three Democratic supermajorities: the first gave us the New Deal; the second gave us the Great Society; the third gave us Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.
“So, getting rid of the filibuster means any time there’s a Democratic majority, you have a Democratic supermajority. So a lot of bad legislation would pass without the 60-vote threshold. So, if you’d asked me five years ago, I would have said, ‘No, I don’t think we should get rid of it because it slows down bad legislation at a time when the Democrats are in control.’
“Why have I changed my mind? Because I don’t believe Democrats will be bound by it. I … think the next time the Democrats have a majority, particularly with a Democratic president, I think they’ll end the filibuster in a hurry. So if I believed it were a credible threat, that it actually would restrain Democrats in the future, then I might well support keeping it now. I don’t.”
Cruz once favored keeping the 60-vote requirement to end a Senate filibuster. He no longer does.
On the PolitiFact Flip-O-Meter, that’s a Full Flop.