Another Day, Another Made-up Crisis: Ted Cruz’s Fake Filibuster

There’s an interesting article in Slate today on Ted Cruz’s filibuster and why its a scam. The tag line reads, “Sen. Ted Cruz is betting that voters are confused enough about how the Senate works that they can be fooled into thinking he can still stop the law.” It’s debt ceiling time again and one thing is for sure. This is becoming an awfully tired script. This time it’s rolled into the controversy over the attempt to defund the ACA.

The last time this happened was in 2011, when Washington politicians fought over the debt ceiling, the national credit was downgraded, and the economy took an unnecessary blow. What was so crazy about it at the time was that the credit rating was not downgraded because the U.S. had too much debt (which it did), nor because they were spending too much (which they were). U.S. credit was downgraded because of fears that the House of Representatives would not make good on debts. The credit rating was lowered because the U.S. was no longer a risk free borrower.

Raising the debt ceiling isn’t the president’s problem, it’s the legislature’s problem. Quick look at Wikipedia on debt ceiling will tell us that the debt ceiling is:

“…a legislative restriction on the amount of national debt that can be issued by the Treasury. Because expenditures are authorized by separate legislation, the debt ceiling does not actually restrict deficits. In effect, it can only restrain the Treasury from paying for expenditures that have already been incurred.”

The legislators are driving this bus the bus here. Refusing to raise the ceiling cannot touch the national debt. It can only create a fiscal crisis. The whole issue is silly, and the way you know it is silly is that the two people most invested in this right now are Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

The debt ceiling is a made up crisis. President Obama is right not to even enter into the conversation. He should stay out of it. This is a family affair, and the House is on a bender again, but that’s not what really bothers me. What really bothers me is that is been conflated with the attempt to defund the ACA. Three things:

  1. The conflation of the debt ceiling and the effort to de-fund the Affordable Care Act have nothing to do with one another. The filibuster stunt and debt ceiling debacle cannot touch Obamacare. U.S. House of Representatives please listen to me… it’s over. She’s gone. She doesn’t love you anymore and she has moved on. You have to let her go. ACA is law and she’s never coming back.
  2. The only people who stand to benefit from a made up crisis like this are politicians who are vying for power. That means that the ones who stand to lose here are the poor and vulnerable, and those who do not have the means to weather another economic slide. As the economy continues to recover, this is the kind of stuff that can slow it back down, or derail it completely.
  3. What Cruz is attempting to do has zero chance of working. It literally cannot work because of the rules of the Senate. This quote comes from a Slate article:

What’s happening in the Senate now is the simple, Cruz version of reality crashing up against the Senate lifers’ more fact-based version of reality. All of the usual scolds spent Tuesday pointing out that Cruz’s plan made no sense. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which had coined the term “wacko birds” when Sen. Rand Paul (and Cruz) briefly filibustered the CIA director’s nomination, painstakingly explained why Cruz was asking Republicans to bear the onus of a government shutdown. “The president of the United States says he would veto anything that came to his desk,” said Sen. John McCain, who popularized—mostly to Cruz’s benefit—the wacko birds line. “Nothing is viable until we have 67 votes. To think otherwise is defiance of the facts.”

This filibuster isn’t about the debt ceiling and it isn’t about Obamacare, it’s about the fact that Ted Cruz wants to run for president. Washington politicians are playing chicken with the U.S. economy. This isn’t about ideology, right and wrong, morality, or high-minded concern for the future of American. This crisis is about power.

If you want to understand a few of the dynamics at work here, Bill Moyers has a great primer here: 7 -Things You Should Know about the Wackiest “Fiscal Crisis” Yet. In my opinion, #7 is the most hilarious: “Not raising the debt limit in a timely manner will increase the national debt …” Not everything that’s ironic is funny, but that certainly is.

I have two take-aways from this final crisis. I think it’s time for term limits in the house of Representatives. I think reps should be elected for a four year term and should only be allowed to serve one term ever – for life. Second, I’m just reminded that we should put no faith in governments or politicians. These things are not worthy of something so precious as faith or trust. The House and Senate are drifting farther and farther away from anything resembling honorable institutions. Self-congratulatory maybe, reckless and obtuse maybe, but not honorable, and certainly not worthy of our good faith.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • scott stone

    What’s fascinating is that when Obama was in the Senate he voted against raising the debt limit.


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