Skip to main content

Anatomy of very long speech: How Ted Cruz did it

By Lisa Desjardins, CNN Capitol Hill Reporter
updated 7:04 PM EDT, Wed September 25, 2013
Sen. Ted Cruz spoke for more than 21 hours on the Senate floor against Obamacare
Sen. Ted Cruz spoke for more than 21 hours on the Senate floor against Obamacare
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some tense moments not long into the 21-hour speaking marathon; then Rubio showed up
  • Cruz had mental breaks, but couldn't leave the Senate floor to use the restroom or eat
  • Texas Republican put aside his Ostrich boots and wore sneakers; staff supplied speaking material
  • Cruz drank "very little water"; Other marathon Senate speeches featured colorful stories, too

Washington (CNN) -- The critical moment for Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies came around 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.

The Texas Republican's suit was still crisp, despite more than four hours into what would become a rhetorical marathon of more than 21 hours on the Senate floor aimed at derailing Obamacare.

But until that point, the brunt of the speaking had been done by Cruz and his ally, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Without more help, Lee's aides weren't sure how long the effort could continue.

Then Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, arrived. It was a sign that they'd get the bodies they needed for the long haul.

"When he showed up, we had a feeling that we could go until noon (the next day)," said Lee spokesman Brian Phillips.

Lee was on or near the floor all night. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who held the floor for 12 hours in March, jumped in. Even ideological opponent Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, shouldered some speaking time while trying to refute Cruz' points.

That gave Cruz some time for mental breaks even though he couldn't leave the floor to eat, use the restroom or do anything else.

For material, staff pulled together binders of articles, talking points and documents that could be used to fill time. And as social networks heated up, aides ferried in a stream of tweets for Cruz to read.

Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 times globally, according to data from the site. Here is a breakdown of those Facebook users.  Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 times globally, according to data from the site. Here is a breakdown of those Facebook users.
Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 times globally, according to data from the site. Here is a breakdown of those Facebook users.Facebook users mentioned 'Obamacare' 300,000 times in the U.S. and 360,000 times globally, according to data from the site. Here is a breakdown of those Facebook users.

But to the big and less comfortable question: How did he manage physically?

Good, pliable shoes, for a start. Cruz left his trademark Ostrich boots behind and told the chamber that he picked up some sneakers in preparation for the long hours of standing.

No food. Senate rules ban anyone from eating on the chamber floor. So that is easy.

Dehydration. CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett asked Cruz how he stood for more than 21 hours without having to use the men's room.

"Drinking very little water," he replied.

That surely is part of it. But we do not know if anything else was involved, as has been the case in the past.

'Green Eggs' and Facebook users  'Green Eggs' and Facebook users
'Green Eggs' and Facebook users'Green Eggs' and Facebook users

The Senate's marathon speech record-holder, the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, reportedly set up a bucket in the Senate cloakroom next to the chamber and used it while keeping one foot on the Senate floor, so as to retain his speaking position.

Former Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee used some kind of bag during his portion of a filibuster, according to an oral history from former parliamentarian Floyd Riddick. It did not end well.

"That's always a defining issue, how much stamina a person has," said Senate Historian Don Ritchie, who recorded the oral history with Riddick and says there is a tradition of senators using a contraption for bodily functions during speech-a-thons.

Cruz was on the Senate floor just 1 hour and 41 minutes short of a day.

"I don't know of any special thing he used," said Phillips. "And he didn't indicate there was anything."

Then he paused.

"That's one of those things that is so personal that there are only a couple of people who know. And they will probably take it to their graves."

Cruz' office did not respond to CNN's request for more details.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:48 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
After all the bickering and grandstanding, the billions lost and trust squandered, it was much ado about nothing
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
The government is open. The debt limit is lifted. The fight is over.
updated 12:51 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Weeks of bitter political fighting gave way to a frenzied night as Congress passed the bill that would prevent the country from crashing into the debt ceiling.
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
The U.S. government looked perilously close to hitting its debt ceiling. Here are the stories you missed during the shutdown.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Even before President Barack Obama signed the deal into law, Yosemite National Park fired off a statement: We're open for business, right now.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
It took more than two weeks, but Congress finally reached a shutdown-ending, debt ceiling-raising deal that satisfies both sides of the aisle.
updated 7:14 PM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
So much for a "clean" bill. The measure passed by Congress to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling also contains some goodies and gifts tucked into the 35-page bill.
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
OK, so Congress passed a bill, the President signed it into law and the government's finally back in business.
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
It began with high hopes and lofty rhetoric, as a newly reelected President Barack Obama ended his State of the Union wish list with a call to action.
updated 11:26 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
The shutdown is over after 16 days, but the things we missed while the government was closed are still fresh in our minds. Here are nine things we're thrilled to have back.
updated 6:27 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Long before the ink had dried on the Senate deal, the writing was already on the wall for the Republican Party: The last three weeks have hurt them.
updated 11:21 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Only 61 people in the history of the United States have held the position. It's the second most powerful in the country and second in line to the presidency.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Congressional approval ratings hovered at historic lows. Republican and Democrats hurled insults at each other and among themselves. The political circus in Washington even made its way to "Saturday Night Live: -- in a sketch featuring Miley Cyrus, at that.
updated 5:02 PM EDT, Mon September 23, 2013
Many government services and agencies were closed at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996 as President Bill Clinton battled a GOP-led Congress over spending levels.
ADVERTISEMENT